Economics

Making Liberty Go Viral


In the 1970’s, as a young radical-libertarian fiction writer, I had the thought: What If — instead of setting the struggle for liberty in the past, or on another world, or in a parallel dimension or alternate timeline or post-apocalyptic future — I played that story on streets barely changed from ones outside my own window?

I didn’t write Alongside Night to be another Atlas Shrugged or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I wrote it to say that you didn’t need to go to the Land of Oz if you wanted to see the wizardry of freedom. It could be right on the sidewalks you walked every day and you didn’t need any ruby or glass slippers.

I believe that in seeking liberty stories are far more important than either elections or marches. Ideas without the imagination to visualize them remain stillborn.

I knew right from the beginning that Alongside Night would have to be more than a novel. I wrote my first draft of a screenplay adaptation before the first book came off the printing press.

Today, Alongside Night is the novel which was its first expression; but it is now also a movie, a graphic novel, an audiobook, and a song. All versions tell pretty much the same story.

I tried and failed to get the major film festivals and Hollywood studios to put my movie onto hundreds or thousands of movieplex screens. They didn’t want it. Knowing their politics, in which sugar and safety rank much higher than liberty, that should not have been a surprise … but I’m always an optimist.

More disappointing to me were people whom I thought prized liberty as much as I do only to discover their conventionality and timidity when courageous imagination was needed.

I did meet some heroes along the way, too — both old friends and some new ones.

We who love liberty, whoever we are, have to get the word out ourselves and if they’re to be deeply ingrained not just words, but pictures, voices, music, and ideas.

Alongside Night is already in distribution as a novel, graphic novel, and audiobook. You can find all of those for sale on Amazon.com if nowhere else. In a few months the Blu-Ray and DVD of the movie will be just as available — we’re aiming at Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, and Redbox.

If you’re a blogger, a podcaster, or just have Facebook friends or Twitter followers — hey, maybe you even have a face, voice, or byline in the Big Media — you don’t have to wait. I just made a secret web page with links to watch the full Alongside Night movie, to read the movie edition of the novel, to read the graphic novel, and to listen to the audiobook.

If you want to write or talk about Alongside Night in any or all of these versions you just need to email me (jneil[at]jesulu.com) or send me a Facebook message promising me you’ll keep the page and its links secret and I’ll give you the secret URL.

Yours in liberty,

J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night The Movie

Alongside Night The Movie Edition

Alongside Night The Graphic Novel

Alongside Night The Audiobook

It’s the near future and America is in trouble. Hyperinflation and disorder reign in the towns and cities of the nation. The government doesn’t have money to pay the military. A revolutionary group inspired by the Declaration of Independence is fomenting a second American Revolution and the director of a futuristic FEMA is arresting political enemies without court-issued warrants and imprisoning them in a secret prison.

This is the nonstop action and suspense in award-winning indie filmmaker J. Neil Schulman’s latest production, Alongside Night, based on his award-winning 1979 novel endorsed by Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman, A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, and Dr. Ron Paul.

Starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), Said Faraj (Green Zone), Contact and Starship Troopers’ Jake Busey, Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ and Garrett Wang, Alien Nation’s Gary Graham, Men in Black 3’s Valence Thomas, Parks and Recreation’s Mara Marini, Lady Magdalene’s Ethan Keogh, Adam Meir and Susan Smythe, Kevin Sorbo’s real-life wife, actress Sam Sorbo, singer/songwriter Jordan Page, and real-life activist Adam Kokesh, as well as up-and-coming actors Christian Kramme, Reid Cox, Kyle Leatherberry, Rebekah Kennedy, Charlie Morgan Patton, and Eric Colton, this is a film far more current than The Hunger Games or Divergence series.

This is the story of Elliot Vreeland (Kramme), son of Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Martin Vreeland (Sorbo). When his family goes missing and while being shadowed by federal agents (Faraj and Leatherberry), Elliot, with the help of his mysterious companion Lorimer (Cox), explore the underground world of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre to find them. It’s a story of romance, intrigue, action, adventure, and exhilarating science fiction thrills.

“J.Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night is at the forefront of libertarian cinema.” — Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

“I’d like to mention to the viewers, hopefully when you get the chance take a look at this movie, read the book. Neil’s worked hard in the libertarian movement. And we’d like to move it along and get it a lot of attention because that’s exactly what we want to do on this program, on this channel, is to promote the cause of liberty and I believe Alongside Night will do that.”
–Dr. Ron Paul, Ron Paul Channel, June 16, 2014

“The story is, by turns, touching, suspense-filled, violent when violence was called for, highly polemic, and altogether satisfying.”
L. Neil Smith, The Libertarian Enterprise

“A movie dedicated to promoting liberty and warning about a too powerful government.” — Coos County Democrat

“Abundant professional talent …supported the making of this fine movie. The result is visually bright and stunning, laced and layered with great music and pregnant with the theme of the unquenchable human spirit seeking liberty.”
–Jerry Jewett, Mondo Cult

Alongside Night has been recognized as an important projection of near-future crises on such diverse mass media as Fox News’ Red Eye, ABC’s On The Red Carpet, The Ron Paul Channel, Alex Jones’ Infowars, Reason.TV, the Larry Elder Show, Las Vegas Weekly, the Libertarian Republic, the Sam Sorbo Show, and many blogs, local TV and radio shows, and podcasts. With recommendations from Ron Paul and Alex Jones to their millions of listeners and viewers this movie has a fan base eagerly awaiting it.

Alongside Night has had successful paid ticketed theatrical screenings in Santa Monica, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Dallas, TX; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Scottsdale, AZ; Spokane, WA; Apple Valley, MN; Schaumburg, IL; Lansing, MI; Okemos, MI; and Lehi, UT.

Official Movie Website

Official Facebook

Official Twitter

YouTube Short Video Play List

Alongside Night Freedom Poster

Las Vegas Weekly article by Josh Bell

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Goodbye Jay Leno — Goodbye Television?


Next month — February 6th, to be precise — the NBC television network is forcing the retirement of their number one late night star — Tonight Show host Jay Leno — in favor of the talented but Tonight Show-ratings untested Jimmy Fallon, who currently follows Leno with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. With rare exception, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has held first place in the 11:35 PM ET/PT late-night time slot ratings since 1995, winning the late-night war for NBC against competition such as David Letterman on CBS, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, and currently syndicated reruns on Fox.

In a 60 Minutes interview Sunday night Leno said he understood NBC’s decision to replace him with a younger host because Leno’s prime demographic is Baby-Boomers (including me, born in 1953) whereas Fallon’s prime demographic is Millennials — the age-demographic including my college-age daughter. According to Leno, NBC is worried that Fallon would jump ship to another network (most likely Fox) if they don’t give him The Tonight Show now. Apparently they are less worried that Jay’s loyal demographic — people closer to my age — will jump ship to watching David Letterman on CBS, a network known for programming to the Baby-Boomer demo in both prime-time and late night.

Jay LenoJimmy Fallon
Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon

I haven’t run the late-night numbers. But NBC programmers don’t have a crystal ball that assures The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon will have a viewership anywhere near as good as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has established. We do know that in 2009 when Leno was originally replaced with Conan O’Brien the ratings for The Tonight Show plummeted so badly NBC begged Leno to come back to The Tonight Show from the disastrous 10:00 PM ET/PT weeknights time slot they tried The Jay Leno Show in, to keep Jay from jumping to another network’s late-night time slot.

I also haven’t run commercial-revenue comparisons between Baby-Boomers and Millennials. But I can’t see how late-night ad revenues could come out with higher commercial buy rates by preferentially advertising to Millennials. Not to put too fine a point on it but even with the drop in 401(K)’s, home equity losses, and worsening fixed-income-to-inflation ratios, Baby-Boomers tend to have a lot more disposal income than Millennials who are having a hard time getting a job, paying off student loans, and — if not living in the old bedroom in their parents’ house — struggling to afford groceries. Is NBC figuring on maintaining ad-rates replacing sponsors such as BMW and Kay Jewelers with Thunderbird and Cup Noodles? Or are they counting on future advertising from pot dispensaries?

Anecdotally, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has been regularly programmed into my DVR because I enjoy his monologue, like his bits “Headlines” and “Jaywalking,” and — even though David Letterman is frequently hilarious — Jay isn’t an-anti-right-to-keep-and-bear-arms New York intellectual like Letterman and, being a gearhead, Jay doesn’t piss me off as often.

I watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon only when he has a guest I want to see, because Fallon’s stand-ups are often repetitive and less polished, he wastes valuable airtime playing games with his guests instead of asking them anything penetrating (this is where Letterman is even better than Leno), and — if I’m to be honest when making a marginal-utility calculation regarding who gets the second hour of my late-night attention span — the funniest person to me on late-night week nights is Craig Ferguson, who follows Letterman on CBS.

All other things being equal, NBC’s decision to lose their lock on late-night for an untested 11:35 PM show with a less-rich viewership just doesn’t make sense.

Unless — as Louie C.K. says — “But maybe…”

But maybe the most important thing about Jimmy Fallon is that his bits frequently become worldwide trending hashtag topics on Twitter.

But maybe NBC is looking a few years down the line when the late-night time-slot wars are over because a lot more people will get their programming directly from web-based services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, viewed either on smart phones and tablets, or connected to their big-screen monitors through Roku boxes and gaming consoles.

I may be a Baby Boomer but my Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions — connected with a Roku box to my living-room plasma screen — are already cutting the time I spend on my DirecTV channel line-up by half.

In the last 24 hours my daughter, away at college, didn’t ask me for a new TV set, like I might have asked my parents for at her age.

She asked to piggyback on my Netflix subscription.

The future, right there.

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ObamaCare Blowback


I received a certified letter from my physician yesterday.

It read:

This letter will serve as notification to you that (clinic name) is withdrawing you from further treatment as of the date of this letter. You are hereby discharged from care by all of our physicians and treatment locations. … We suggest that you place yourself under the care of another physician and medical facility immediately.

My doctor was firing me as a patient? What was up? Was I dying from some disease they had failed to properly diagnose, and they were hoping I was dead before I discovered their malpractice and sued? Did the nurse who couldn’t draw blood from my arm file a grievance against me as a preemptive move? Had I failed to pay a bill?

None of the above.

Star of Life

I phoned the doctor’s office today. They are no longer accepting any patient who doesn’t sign up for their “Concierge Service” — a yearly fee in four figures for unlimited clinic visits.

Cash only.

No medical insurance accepted, no Medicare, total opting out from any part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare.

Welcome to the future of private medical practice in the United States.



Now in post-production: Alongside Night. Look for it later this year!

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Human Property

The basic premise of libertarianism is well stated in the movie The Fifth Element: “Seno Akta Gamat!”

Property is a selfish idea.

This statement has two components.

Property is selfish.

Property is an idea.

You look around and nothing in a state of nature is made with a stamp on it saying that anybody owns it. There are mountains, valleys, plains, lakes, seas, ice masses, and oceans. There are creatures great and small. There are fields of grasses, dense forests, trees and vines bearing fruit, all sorts of edible plants and fungi.

Then come human beings who look around, put up fences, take stuff and turn it into other — sometimes brand new — stuff, and say to other human beings, “This which I messed around with is mine and not yours. Use it without my permission and there’s going to be big trouble.”

I’m called a defender of “intellectual” property. I’ve been denying this for as long as it’s been said for a simple reason: nothing but human intellect makes anything property.

Nothing in a state of nature is property.

Ideas are not property. Ideas make things property.
–J. Neil Schulman, Tweet June 6, 2012

It’s only the application of human intellect to things found in a state of nature that makes anything property.

There is no more of a distinction to be made between “intellectual” property and “stupid” property than there are distinctions between any other kinds of property.

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009

Human action encompasses activities that are both obviously useful and activities the utility of which is intangible.

If I put food on a plate in front of you, the usefulness of the food is barely debatable: human beings are animals that survive by ingesting food used by the body to sustain life.

If I make a dwelling that keeps you dry during rains, warm during winter, unmolested by the sun’s lethal radiation, the utility of the dwelling is also obvious.

But if I tell you a joke, sing you a song, tell you a story that in the retelling helps you put your child to bed, make a book that by trying to explain your place in the universe makes it easier for you to put yourself to bed at night, the utility is subtler.

The utility of any thing is defined by what a user can do with it. The value of a thing is defined by what a user is willing to exchange for it — either one’s own investment in time and toil or by exchange with someone else to get it. All of modern economics is an attempt to analyze, understand, and better plan human activities based on the above fundamental truths.

Beginning a few decades beyond two centuries ago, a moral philosopher named Adam Smith wrote a book launching a new discussion on the right and wrong ways to make nations richer. Since then others have called this book the beginnings of economics as a science, and subsequent writers from Karl Marx to Ludwig von Mises have written their own books to take up Adam Smith’s discussion.

It’s beyond my scope in this brief essay to discuss the overall history of ideas in the science of economics; but I do want to make it clear that what we debate in discussions about property are ideas.

Property does not exist in nature.

Property is an abstract intellectual concept.

When we discuss “property” we are discussing what human actions are rightful by general moral principles, by utility to the individual human being or some wider group of individual human beings — and these days there are human beings who demand that the discussion be widened to the general welfare of non-human animals, plants, and even the spiritual needs of our planet, which they address as “Gaia.”

I’m a libertarian. My moral philosophy is that only beings that can communicate the thought “I am and this is what I demand” qualify for my consideration as actors — and that to qualify as a member of the class of moral actors one needs to be able to be put on trial by other moral actors for the consequences to others of one’s acts. Anything other than responsible moral actors may be worthy of privileges, immunities, and protection — but how and what those are will be decided in councils of moral actors.

Those acts that moral actors may take without prior permission of another moral actor is the beginning of the abstract concept of a “right.” Those rights — the collection of actions that may be taken without another’s permission — those right-sanctioned actions when taken as a whole — is called “liberty.”

Making the use of a thing exclusive to the decisions of a particular moral actor is the foundation of what we call property rights. A property right is an action with respect to a non-sapient thing that a morally responsible actor may take without permission from another.

Now.

There are current writers who argue that there is a distinction to be made between things that are scarce and common — the use of which is “rivalrous” or “non-rivalrous” — and these distinctions define what may and may not rightfully be considered property.

But absolute non-scarcity of a thing is not a distinction that universally disqualifies a thing as ineligible for a claim that a particular human being has a rightful moral claim to its exclusive use.

Water is ubiquitous on planet Earth — three quarters of the surface of this planet is covered with it, sometimes to great depth — yet a canteen of potable water to a man trekking through a desert can be private property that is the difference between life and death.

Nor is the “rivalrous” or “non-rivalrous” use of a particular thing a distinction that disqualifies a thing from being the exclusive property of a specific human owner.

A bed that I use only eight hours a night does not become open to “non-rivalrous” use during the other 16 hours in a day merely because my body is not lying on it. If I own the bed — if it is my private property — my moral rights to exclusive determination of how and when that bed is used are the definition of ownership.

Declaring me selfish by my disallowing others to use the bed in my absence is an attack on the concept of private property, and the negation of individual human rights as the moral basis for organizing human utilization of the things we dedicate to our uses.

This is an abstract discussion of moral premises.

So far this is not a discussion of what things are but what moral actions we may take with respect to them.

But there is now a discussion that things which human beings make that exist only as replicable art may not be private property. The argument is made that a thing which is replicable can be used by more than one person at a time because another’s use of a copy does not deprive the original owner of anything. He still has exclusive use of the original.

But that’s simply not true.

Art is not knowledge.
–Brad Linaweaver, in a discussion with the author

A novel is a longish written-down story, the function of which is to be communicated from its author to someone else, who is its audience. Writers do not write novels for their own individual use. It is written as a trade good for the use of others.

When I write the novel it exists first as a thing separate and distinguishable from anything which carries it — paper, computer-readable memory, or even the brain of a human being with eidetic memory.

If the composition of words is rendered into digital form, the file has a unique file size and each line of text has a unique checksum; but the novel itself is a uniquely identifiable sequence of alphanumeric characters. A computer can identify this novel in comparison to other digital files as a unique thing as easily as it can compare the digital images of two fingerprints and determine one of them to be a unique identifier of a single human being among billions.

Ever notice thieves and communists scream like Gollum “My precious! Mine! Mine! Mine!” the second you enforce the original property right?
–J. Neil Schulman, Tweet June 6, 2012

A thing which can be identified as a unique object qualifies as a thing that can be claimed as private property. The number of media carriers upon which this unique thing can be stored and displayed is a variable; yet there is a singular and unique thing that exists no matter whether the number of displays or carriers is the single manuscript upon which it was first imprinted or the millions of carriers upon which it is communicated to its intended audience.

To deny this property right is to deny that the thing exists, or that it is a commercial trade good. Without this recognition there is no thing that the audience may enjoy and no thing that its author has made for their use.

The distinction between these media-carried properties and other kinds of property is not a question of economics or morality.

The primary question is not who does or does not own this thing. That moral and economic question is answered when we have acknowledged that a thing exists. At that point, those who believe in individual, selfish property rights grant the right of ownership to the human being who brought it forth from nothingness in an act of ex nihilo creation.

Or at least it is as close to nothingness that can be observed on a blank piece of paper, or gazing at a blank monitor screen, when I fill it in with avalanches of words.

The persistent fallacy of the anti-IP crowd: all private property is an expression of human intellect. Private property is itself an idea.
–J. Neil Schulman, Tweet June 6, 2012

Atheists these day debate with the religious about whether the universe is the product of dumb nature or intelligent design.

Atheists these days debate with the religious about whether God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Surely atheists do not need to debate with the religious about whether J. Neil Schulman created this essay you just read?

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I’ve been cornered into writing about “intellectual” property for over three decades. It’s been a distraction from the fundamental core arguments about the nature of property I’ve intended to make.

It’s not an accident I titled this article “Human Property.” I intended that title to have the impact of titles like Capital and Human Action.

It’s not a complicated idea I’m trying to get across so I was able to be terse about it. Unlike Marx and Mises, I did not need to expound at tome length.

But if shorter essays by Thoreau can inspire a Gandhi or Martin Luther King, I don’t see any reason why my little essay on the nature of human property can’t be as inspirational for a new generation of libertarians who have been lied to by moral idiots.

–J. Neil Schulman, from an email about this article written to Brad Linaweaver

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Related Articles by J. Neil Schulman:

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Poverty of Nations

Who Has Rights?

The Libertarian Case for IP

MCP

Copying Is Not Theft? How About Identity Theft?

Copying Is Not Theft? How About Forgery? Counterfeiting? Plagiarism?

My Unfinished 30-Year-Old Debate with Wendy McElroy

Karl Marx versus Political Correctness

Also L. Neil Smith’s Guest Editorial:

Little Criminals — The Context of Consent

This article is Copyright © 2012 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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New Indie Film Distribution Model Pioneered by Nichelle Nichols Comic Thriller Lady Magdalene’s

Strategic business alliance between nutritional supplement company Life Enhancement Products and indie film company Jesulu Productions demonstrates a new distribution model for indie films, where a sponsor’s sales revenues are shared with a producer, repaying movie investors. First up: Lady Magdalene’s, a triple-film-festival-award-winning suspense comedy starring original Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, released for free views both on web and TV, with Life Enhancement infomercial.

(OpenPress) November 8, 2011 — Most entertainment industry observers are confident that new-media distribution of movies to digital devices will become a major part of film distribution, but until now nobody has demonstrated a business model that creates a revenue stream sufficient to repay film investors. Now one indie film company is trying to create just such a digital-media revenue stream, making independent film-making once again attractive to investors by creating new profitable competition to traditional distribution channels monopolized by the interlocking cartels of movie studios, broadcast/cable/satellite systems & networks, and chain theatrical exhibitors.

Jesulu Productions has just released for free viewing on both YouTube and broadcast television its triple-film-festival-award-winning suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, starring the original Star Trek‘s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, including an up-front infomercial by the nutritional supplement company, Life Enhancement Products. The strategic business alliance between the independent film company and nutritional supplement company pioneers a new distribution model for independent films, whereby the new revenue stream created by the movie’s sponsored distribution is shared with a film’s producer, repaying movie investors for the costs of production.

This business model for infomercial-sponsored independent film distribution was conceived by Lady Magdalene’s writer/producer/director, J. Neil Schulman, also an award-winning novelist and journalist, who in the 1980’s and 1990’s founded and operated two eBook publishing companies, SoftServ Publishing and Pulpless.Com, which were the first companies to make books by bestselling authors available for download to personal computers, first as SoftServ in 1990 via the General Electric Network for Information Exchance (GEnie), then beginning in 1995 from the world wide web as Pulpless.Com.

“I believe movie watchers are already used to seeing commercial messages before a movie starts,” says Schulman, “on TV and even in movie theaters. I also think a well-done and entertaining infomercial is much more likely to produce results than traditional web banner advertising extraneous to the movie, which web surfers are much more used to ignoring.”

Lady Magdalene's Poster #2

In Jesulu Productions’ suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, Nichelle Nichols plays Maggie, the colorful and determined madam of a legal Nevada brothel — relocated from New Orleans after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — and in tax default to the IRS. However the talented but disgraced federal agent, Jack Goldwater (Ethan Keogh), sent as the federal receiver to manage the brothel, soon uncovers evidence that Lady Magdalene’s is being used by al-Qaeda operatives as a meetup for a plot leading to the tunnels under Hoover Dam. But Agent Goldwater and a female federal agent he soon meets up with (Susan Smythe) can’t figure out what al-Qaeda is really doing until they seek help from Lady Magdalene and the working women at the brothel.

Lady Magdalene’s: Free Web Edition was released on YouTube as a single high-definition video, available for web streaming or download, on October 22, 2011; and on Halloween, October 31, 2011, Lady Magdalene’s had its world television premiere on KPVM TV, Pahrump, Nevada, the town in which most of the movie’s principal photography was shot, using both familiar locations and many locals in the cast. The movie broadcast was preceded by the thirty-minute Lady Magdalene’s KPVM TV Halloween 2011 Premiere Pre-Show (also available on YouTube), hosted by cast member Mara Marini (“Nurse Gretchen”), and featuring interviews with star Nichelle Nichols, writer/director J. Neil Schulman, cast-member Mark Gilvary (who plays two different roles in the movie), and features on Pahrump local actors who were selected from a local casting call.

A second thirty-minute video,Lady Magdalene’s Pre-Show, intended for TV broadcasts elsewhere, is also available for viewing on YouTube.

Both the Life Enhancement infomercial and the two pre-shows were produced by Jesulu Productions.

Lady Magdalene's Film Festival Palm Leaves

Lady Magdalene’s has won three film-festival awards: “Best Cutting Edge Film” after its premiere at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival; ” Audience Choice” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival shown on the Citywalk adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood; and, most recently, “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals” at FreedomFest’s Anthem Film Festival at Bally’s Las Vegas in July 2011.

Life Enhancement Products is the exclusive distributor of the nutritional supplement formulations of New York Times bestselling authors, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, and the infomercial seen in both the movie and the pre-show features Mara Marini interviewing founder, president, CEO, and editor of Life Enhancement Magazine, Will Block.

J. Neil Schulman and Will Block have been friends since they met at a New York libertarian meeting in 1972. Block was the videographer at Schulman’s 1985 wedding to Schulman’s ex-wife, singer/songwriter, Kate O’Neal, two of whose songs are featured on the soundtrack of Lady Magdalene’s.


Alongside Night Poster #1
Alongside Night Poster #2

Schulman and Block are both executive producers on Schulman’s next film production, Alongside Night scheduled to begin principal photography in December, starring international TV and film star, Kevin Sorbo (also an executive producer on the film). Schulman has adapted the screenplay from his Prometheus-Hall-of-Fame 1979 novel, endorsed by Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman, A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, and presidential hopeful Congressman Ron Paul, and Schulman will be helming Alongside Night as his second feature. Schulman has referred to Alongside Night as his “1979 novel ripped from today’s headlines” as it follows the teenage son of a Nobel-prizewinning economist through a U.S. facing fall of the United States government due to the hyperinflationary collapse of the U.S. dollar. The movie is scheduled to premiere on the campus of George Mason University in Spring 2012, sponsored by campus organization Mason Liberty and AntiWar.Com.

Full information on Lady Magdalene’s is on the official movie website at http://www.ladymagdalenes.com. The official Lady Magdalene’s Facebook Page is at http://www.facebook.com/ladymagdalenes.

Full information on Alongside Night is on the official movie website at http://www.alongsidenightmovie.com. The official Alongside Night Facebook Page is at http://www.facebook.com/alongsidenightmovie.

Information about Life Enhancement Products can be found on the web at http://www.life-enhancement.com/movie.







Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website and as a DVD on Amazon.com. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Nichelle Nichols Comedy Thriller Lady Magdalene’s Pioneers New Indie Film Distribution Model

Everybody knows that new-media distribution of movies to digital devices will become a major part of film distribution, but to this point nobody has demonstrated a business model that creates a revenue stream sufficient to repay film investors competitive to traditional distribution models that have already shut out all but a handful of independent films. If the cutting-edge Lady Magdalene’s/Life Enhancement business model of free distribution with infomercials works to create such a revenue stream, suddenly independent filmmaking becomes attractive to investors again and for the first time enables competition to traditional distribution channels monopolized by the interlocking cartels of movie studios, broadcast/cable/satellite systems & networks, and chain theatrical exhibitors.

(OpenPress) November 6, 2011 — The triple-film-festival-award-winning suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, starring the original Star Trek‘s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, has just been released for free viewing on both YouTube and broadcast television, including an up-front infomercial by the nutritional supplement company, Life Enhancement Products. The strategic business alliance between Life Enhancement Products and the independent film company, Jesulu Productions, demonstrates a new distribution model for independent films, whereby the new revenue stream created by the movie’s sponsored distribution is shared with a film’s producer, repaying movie investors for the costs of production.

This business model for sponsored independent film distribution was conceived by Lady Magdalene’s writer/producer/director, J. Neil Schulman, also an award-winning novelist and journalist, who in the 1980’s and 1990’s founded and operated two eBook publishing companies, SoftServ Publishing and Pulpless.Com, which were the first companies to make books by bestselling authors available for download to personal computers, first as SoftServ in 1990 via the General Electric Network for Information Exchance (GEnie), then beginning in 1995 from the world wide web as Pulpless.Com.

Lady Magdalene's Poster #2

In this suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, Nichelle Nichols plays Lady Magdalene, the colorful and determined madam of a legal Nevada brothel — relocated from New Orleans after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — and in tax default to the IRS. However the talented but disgraced federal agent, Jack Goldwater (Ethan Keogh), sent as the federal receiver to manage the brothel, soon uncovers evidence that Lady Magdalene’s is being used by al-Qaeda operatives as a meetup for a plot leading to the tunnels under Hoover Dam. But Agent Goldwater and a female federal agent he soon meets up with (Susan Smythe) can’t figure out what al-Qaeda is really doing until they seek help from Lady Magdalene and the working women at the brothel.

Lady Magdalene’s: Free Web Edition was released on YouTube as a single high-definition video, available for web streaming or download, on October 22, 2011; and on Halloween, October 31, 2011, Lady Magdalene’s had its world television premiere on KPVM TV, Pahrump, Nevada, the town in which most of the movie’s principal photography was shot, using both familiar locations and many locals in the cast. The movie broadcast was preceded by the thirty-minute Lady Magdalene’s KPVM TV Halloween 2011 Premiere Pre-Show (also available on YouTube), hosted by cast member Mara Marini (“Nurse Gretchen”), and featuring interviews with star Nichelle Nichols, writer/director J. Neil Schulman, cast-member Mark Gilvary (who plays two different roles in the movie), and features on Pahrump local actors who were selected from a local casting call.

A second thirty-minute video,Lady Magdalene’s Pre-Show, intended for TV broadcasts elsewhere, is also available for viewing on YouTube.

Lady Magdalene's Film Festival Palm Leaves

Lady Magdalene’s has won three film-festival awards: “Best Cutting Edge Film” after its premiere at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival; ” Audience Choice” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival shown on the Citywalk adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood; and, most recently, “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals” at FreedomFest’s Anthem Film Festival at Bally’s Las Vegas in July 2011.

Life Enhancement Products is the exclusive distributor of the nutritional supplement formulations of New York Times bestselling authors, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, and the infomercial seen in both the movie and the pre-show features Mara Marini interviewing founder, president, CEO, and editor of Life Enhancement Magazine, Will Block.

J. Neil Schulman and Will Block have been friends since they met at a New York libertarian meeting in 1972. Block was the videographer at Schulman’s 1985 wedding to Schulman’s ex-wife, singer/songwriter, Kate O’Neal, two of whose songs are featured on the soundtrack of Lady Magdalene’s.

Full information on Lady Magdalene’s is on the official movie website at http://www.ladymagdalene’s.com. The official Lady Magdalene’s Facebook Page is at http://www.facebook.com/ladymagdalenes.

Information about Life Enhancement Products can be found on the web at http://www.life-enhancement.com/movie.







Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website and as a DVD on Amazon.com. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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An Open Statement to Law Enforcement


Late last night I opened up my email queue and found a Google alert. Google Alerts are like the old newspaper clipping services professional publicists used to subscribe to for their clients. These days it’s a simple, no-cost key word search on the web, and I’ve set up several for my name and the titles of things I’ve written. One of them is my 1979 novel, Alongside Night.

This Google alert sent me to the website of an ABC News local station in Tampa, Florida.

Here’s the website link to the news story:


‘Silk Road’ website called the Amazon, eBay of heroin, cocaine, drug trafficking



That got my attention. I read the story. And discovered that my three-decade-old novel directly inspired this drug-trafficking website.

Alongside Night 30th Anniversary Edition
Alongside Night 30th Anniversary Edition

So let me make this clear and open statement to any law-enforcement investigators.

I don’t know anything more than this news story told me.

Nobody from this website has ever told me they were going to do this, are doing it, or identified themselves to me in any way.

I neither buy nor sell nor use illegal drugs.

Investigating me as a way to get to them is a dry hole.

Alongside Night has been in print since 1979. It’s won literary awards, got reviewed a lot, has gotten written about a lot. In the past couple of years there have been over 275,000 downloads of the novel from my website. No, I don’t have any records of who downloaded the novel.

I’m saying this right up front because I have no desire to have a SWAT team raid the home where I am writing this. If you want to interview me for an investigation, my contact information is publicly available here. Make an appointment with me and I’ll willingly tell you everything I know, which — by the way — I just did.

Here are all the links you need to find out everything about Alongside Night:

Download the Novel for Free
Official Movie Website
Official Novel Facebook Page
Official Movie Facebook Page
Amazon.com Page
Wikipedia Article
IMDb Page

Sincerely,

J. Neil Schulman

P.S. I’m currently working on turning Alongside Night into a movie. If you think financing my movie will be helpful to your investigation, I’m willing to take your money.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on Amazon.com and for sale or rental on Amazon.com Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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A Variation on Friedman — School Vouchers for Teachers?

“Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman argued for the modern concept of vouchers in the 1950s, stating that competition would improve schools and cost efficiency. The view further gained popularity with the 1980 TV broadcast of Friedman’s series Free to Choose for which volume 6 was devoted entirely to promoting ‘educational freedom’ through programs like school vouchers.” — Wikipedia

See also Milton Friedman on Vouchers

Over half a century ago Milton Friedman — in a libertarian-themed attempt to separate taxes for education from government-run schools — suggested the idea of educational vouchers so that tax-money would not flow to public schools with their top-down bureaucracy and politically-mandated curricula. The tax-funded voucher would satisfy the core value stated by those who argue for universal education of children but restore academic freedom by attaching the funding to the student and allowing parents control by the voucher being spendable in a school of the parents’ choice.

Free to Choose
Free to Choose: The Complete Series
(Original 1980’s Edition)

The tax-funded educational voucher could be spent by the parent by enrolling their student in a public school, a charter school, a private school, and even a religious-based school.

Opposition to Dr. Friedman’s proposal has come from four camps:

  • Public-school teachers — particularly tenured teachers — voiced through their unions, who believe that tax-money flowing away from public schools threatens their jobs;
  • Those who want political control of what is taught to students;
  • Those who — like John Dewey — have supported public schools because they’re opposed to religion-based schools — originally Roman Catholic parochial schools in particular, but since the 1960’s Christian schools in general;
  • Libertarians concerned that the attachment of tax-funds to private schools inevitably gives the government the same control over the curriculum of private schools as exists for public schools — so only severing schooling from government entirely will produce a free-market in education.

The political lobbying against school vouchers has come overwhelmingly from teachers’ unions. The second two factions opposing separation of tax funds from public schools comes from liberal organizations, but they’re less broad-based. Libertarians, as usual, are marginal players in mainstream political debates.

What I’m proposing as an alternative to Milton Friedman’s idea may not be original with me.1 I’ve tried Googling this idea to see if it’s been suggested previously — and I emailed it to Milton Friedman’s son, David, and am awaiting his response — but I’ve come up dry so far.

What if — instead of attaching the educational voucher to the student — the educational voucher was attached to the teacher?

Thus, a teacher’s salary, pension, and other benefits would attach not to the school but to the teacher, and both public and private schools would have to compete for the teacher in order to secure that funding.

Teachers could take their vouchers to schools that empower them, rather than having teachers be a pawn in a political power struggle.

From a libertarian standpoint it’s still an imperfect idea — as imperfect by libertarian perfectionist standards as Milton Friedman’s original voucher proposal — but it has the advantage over the original educational voucher that it empowers teachers such that they are no longer dependent on the political power of their union to keep their jobs.

Still, it changes the debate, and with an educational bureaucracy failing by anyone’s standards, a fresh look with new terms of debate can’t be a bad thing.

1A later Google search located a March 21, 2001 Education Week article by Steve Cohen titled, “Maybe We’re Fighting Over The Wrong Vouchers.” Cohen, cited as “the chief executive officer of www.4to14.com, an e-learning company based in New York City” (dead web link), suggested giving “schools vouchers to purchase ‘teacher services.'” This keeps the control of education funding with school administrators rather than attaching the funding directly to teachers, to bring where they choose, and is not at all the same suggestion I’m putting forward.



My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on Amazon.com and for sale or rental on Amazon.com Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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My Unfinished 30-Year-Old Debate with Wendy McElroy

Three decades ago, at a libertarian meeting in Los Angeles, the program paired me with Wendy McElroy to debate the question, “Is Copyright a Natural Right?” Wendy argued against. Instead of arguing “for” as I’d agreed to I cheated by abandoning defense of copyright and instead offered my own brand-new theory of all property rights, including property rights in the products of authorship and invention.

In the thirty years since Wendy and I have both published on this topic, but in my view she has never gone beyond the original debate question by addressing my actual presentation.

A few days ago Wendy updated her first publication of her side of the debate and published it as “Contra Copyright, Again.”

Reprinted under a creative commons license, here is Wendy’s new article and my new reply.

–J. Neil Schulman

Author Wendy McElroy
Author Wendy McElroy


Contra Copyright, Again

Wendy McElroy

Retrospective

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Los Angeles in the early ’80s was like that for libertarians. It brimmed over with supper clubs, student groups, small magazines, debates and conferences. Given the concentration of high-quality scholars and activists in the area, the explosion of activity was inevitable. Although the new-born Libertarian Party was extremely active, the circles in which I ran were generally anti-political or apathetic about electoral politics. They included the cadre gathered around Robert LeFevre, a sprinkling of Objectivists (mostly admirers of Nathaniel Branden), a few Galambosians, and as many Rothbardians as I could meet. And, then, Carl Watner, George H. Smith and I established our own unique circle by creating The Voluntaryist newsletter and re-introducing the term Voluntaryist back into the libertarian mainstream. A libertarian used book store named Lysander’s Books that I co-owned became the center of Voluntaryism.

One intellectual circle in particular exerted a profound influence on the development of my thinking on intellectual property: the anarcho-capitalists who banded around Samuel Konkin III (or, as he preferred, SEK3), many of whom lived in the same apartment complex as SEK3; the complex became known as the anarcho-village. (In truth, it was SEK3 and Victor Koman rather than the entire circle that exerted the influence.)

My first exposure to the theories that constitute intellectual property came from reading Ayn Rand,[1] but I gave the matter little thought. It was not until reading Lysander Spooner that I began to analyze the issue critically. Spooner advocated a rather extreme form of ownership in ideas. He once wrote, “So absolute is an author’s right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases.”[2] I had adopted many of Spooner’s ideas wholesale but I balked at his view of intellectual property. Although I did not then question the claim that ideas could be property, I was disturbed by how closely so much of Spooner’s advocacy came to the Galambosian view at which so many of my companions laughed derisively. Galambos famously had a nickle jar into which he would deposit a coin every time he used a word that had been “invented” by someone else and to whom (in his opinion) he owned money for its use. I thought then (and now) that such ownership claims went against the free flow of knowledge required by a thriving society … or a thriving individual, for that matter. In short, Spooner’s approach to intellectual property felt wrong.

At that same time, I was also engaged in indexing Benjamin Tucker’s 19th century periodical Liberty (1881–1908) and, eventually, I progressed into Tucker’s discussion of intellectual property in which he fundamentally disagreed with the views of his mentor, Spooner. The pre-Stirnerite Tucker considered the issue to be his only deviation from Spooner. As I read the very active debate within Liberty, I began to reduce my commitment to intellectual property, to narrow it. For example, I abandoned altogether the belief that inventions could properly be patented. My belief in copyright, however, was more persistent despite the fact that Murray Rothbard—my idol and my friend—was anti-copyright. Frankly, Murray and I never discussed that subject.

But SEK3 and I did. Many people found SEK3 to be a bit annoying in how he argued ideas. There was a persistence and casual assurance about him that irritated some but which I found charming. SEK3 was always available and “up” for gab-sessions that lasted for hours. He had an uncanny ability to find the strand of thought in your argument which could be reduced to absurdity. Some people bitterly resented this ability because they thought he was making them look foolish but it fascinated me and I found it compelling. Indeed, it had been a similar technique of arguing that had made me relinquish my belief in God at the age of sixteen. SEK3 now used the technique on me and, so, chipped away at my acceptance of copyright.[3] The last blow was dealt by the science-fiction writer and SEK3 cadre Victor Koman who asked me a pointed question at an otherwise forgettable party. Vic asked, “Do you really think you own what is in my mind?” As an anarchist who was then reading both Tucker and 19th century abolitionist tracts, one answer alone was possible: “No.” And, yet, if I claimed ownership over an arrangement of words he had read, then I was answering “yes” because that arrangement now resided in Victor’s mind. If I could compel him (as Spooner suggested) not to speak the words aloud, then I was making an ownership claim over another person’s body.

At that moment—and, granted, it took several months of consideration to reach that moment—I abandoned all belief in intellectual property.

One of SEK3’s cadre who never made the same leap was/is the science-fiction writer J. Neil Schulman. Shortly after my conversion experience, I was asked to debate J. Neil on the topic of copyright at a Westwood supper club that scrapped the dinner part of the evening in order to accommodate a longer program of debate, rebuttal, Q&A. (SEK3 may well have been the more logical choice but, as I said, he irritated some people.) The event was a rousing success in several ways. First, the large room was filled beyond capacity, with people choosing to stand for hours rather than leave. Brad (now my husband of over 20 years) attended as the representative of the Society for Libertarian Life. SLL offered 2 buttons: one pro- and one anti-copyright; as I remember, they sold out.

It was a long evening, mostly due to the fact that J. Neil went over his 20-minute time limit by about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, not a single person left and the Q&A was unusually lively. At first, I was disappointed because the questions were overwhelmingly directed toward J. Neil. But, then, I realized no one was arguing with me. Everyone was taking exception to his presentation on what he called “logorights.” At that point, I relaxed until, finally, the moderator had to cut off questions because the gathering was going beyond the time for which the room had been rented. A group of us adjourned to a Great Earth restaurant and continued the discussion.

J. Neil immediately began to write up his side of the debate and later published it.[4] I followed suit. Since I always write out my presentations, this merely required some polishing to produce “Contra Copyright” which appeared in an early issue of The Voluntaryist newsletter. A still more polished revision appears below.


Contra Copyright

Copyright—the legal claim of ownership over a particular arrangement of symbols—is a complicated issue because the property being claimed is intangible. It has no mass, no shape, no color. For the property claimed is not the specific instance of an idea, not a specific book or pamphlet, but the idea itself and all present or possible instances of its expression.

The title of a recent book on intellectual property, Who Owns What Is In Your Mind?, concretizes a commonsense objection to all intellectual property: most people would loudly proclaim that NO ONE owns what is in their minds, that this realm is sacrosanct. And, yet, if the set of ideas in your mind begins “Howard Roark laughed” do you have the right to transfer it onto paper and publish a book entitled The Fountainhead under your own name? If not, why not? To say you own what is in your mind means you have the right to use and dispose of it as you see fit. If you cannot use and dispose of it, if Ayn Rand (assuming a still-living Rand) is the only one who can use and dispose of this specific arrangement of the alphabet, then she owns that sentence within your mind. And if she owns what is in your mind, you have violated her rights in writing or speaking it because you do not have permission to use her property.

I advocate a form of copyright—free market copyright. I view copyright as a useful social convention to be maintained and enforced through contract and other market (voluntary) mechanisms. This is in contradistinction to those who believe copyright can be derived from natural rights; in other words, ideas or patterns are property and their exclusive ownership does not require a contract anymore than preventing a man from stealing your wallet requires a prior contract.

Basically, the debate over copyright—or, more generally, intellectual property—comes down to two questions: What is property? What are the essential characteristics which make something ownable?: and, What is an idea?

Before going on to a discussion of theory, however. I want to address two implications that often lurk beneath criticism of free market copyright.

First: It is said that the marketplace cannot handle intellectual property issues. Those who contend that ten different people would publish Hamlet under their own names and, so, create cut-throated chaos, are using a form of the “market failure” argument which has been applied to everything from medical care to defense. Similarly, it is claimed, the market cannot regulate the publishing industry. The opposite is true. When I co-owned a used book store—a business which is virtually unregulated—I was astonished at how effectively the free market spontaneously set standards. It was not uncommon for stores in L.A. to know the specifics of a stolen book or a forged autograph the day after it had been spotted in New York.

Second, it is said that free market copyright would strip authors of valid protection or credit for their own work. When Benjamin Tucker—a 19th century libertarian opponent of copyright—was accused of stripping authors of protection, he replied: “It must not be inferred that I wish to deprive the authors of reasonable rewards for their labor. On the contrary, I wish to help them secure such, and I believe that there are Anarchistic methods of doing so.”[5] Equally, those who oppose state-enforced copyright are not seeking to victim authors but to use free market mechanisms to offer whatever protection is just.

Returning to theory … The issue of copyright hinges on the question: can ideas be property? Which leads to another question: what are the characteristics of property?

Tucker addressed this issue in fundamental terms. He asked why the concept of property had originated in the first place. If ideas are viewed as problem-solving devices, as answers to questions, then what about the nature of reality and the nature of man gave rise to the idea of property? In a brilliant analysis, Tucker concluded that property arose as a means of solving conflicts caused by scarcity. Since all goods are scarce, there is competition for their use. Since the same chair cannot be used in the same manner at the same time by two individuals, it was necessary to determine who should use the chair. Property resolved this problem. The owner of the chair determined its use. “If it were possible,” wrote Tucker,

and if it had always been possible, for an unlimited number of individuals to use to an unlimited extent and in an unlimited number of places the same concrete things at the same time, there would never have been any such thing as the institution of property.[6]

Yet ideas defy scarcity. Since the same idea or pattern can be used by an unlimited number to an unlimited extent in unlimited locations, Tucker concluded that copyright ran counter to the very purpose of property itself, which was to ascertain the correct allocation of a scarce good.

Copyright contradicts not merely the purpose of property but also the essential characteristics of property, one such characteristic being transferability. Property has to be alienable: you must be able to dispossess yourself of it. The individualist anarchist, James L. Walker, commented, “The giver or seller parts with it [meaning property] in conveying it. This characteristic distinguishes property from skill and information.”[7] When you buy the skill and information of a doctor who gives you a check up, for example, you don’t acquire a form of title, as you would acquire title to a car from a car dealer, because the doctor is unable to alienate the information from himself. He cannot transfer it to you: he can only share it.

It was this point, transferability, that lead Thomas Jefferson to reject ideas as property. Jefferson drew an analogy between ideas and candles. Just as a man could light his taper from a candle without diminishing the original flame, so too could he acquire an idea without diminishing the original one. Jefferson wrote:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is … an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.[8]

When a poet reads or sells poetry without a contract, when he throws his ideas and patterns into the public realm, the listeners receive information, not property. For the publicized poems to be property they must be transferable, alienable. Yet, as the egoist J.B. Robinson said, “What is an idea? Is it made of wood, or iron, or stone? The idea is nothing objective, that is to say, the idea is not part of the product: it is part of the producer.”[9]

In other words, if the poet claims ownership to the pattern of words in his listener’s head, this reduces to a form of slavery since the ownership claim is over an aspect of the listener’s body: namely, his mind, his knowledge. Such a claim is comparable to saying you own the blood in someone else’s arm. Certainly, you could buy the blood—perhaps for a transfusion—but such a purchase would be contractual and not based on natural right.

Everyone owns the ideas within their own minds. If there is only one instance of a specific idea or arrangement of ideas—e.g. a writer who locks his novel in a desk drawer—then the idea is protected by natural right, by the author’s to self-ownership. He has right to live in peace and silence and maintain a locked desk; no one can properly break into his desk and steal his property. When an author chooses to publicize his ideas without securing protection based on a listener’s or reader’s consent, however, he loses the protection afforded by his self-ownership. He loses what Tucker called ‘“the right of inviolability of person.”

To restate this: I own my ideas because they are in my mind and you can get at them only through my consent or through using force. My ideas are like stacks of money locked inside a vault which you cannot acquire without breaking in and stealing. But, if I throw the vault open and scatter my money on the wind, the people who pick it up off the street are no more thieves than the people who pick up and use the words I throw into the public realm. And, yet, the poet might respond, no one is forced to absorb the poetry floating through the culture. They do so of their own free will. Therefore, says the poet, there is an implied contract or obligation on the part of the listener not to use it without permission.

Victor Yarros, Tucker’s main opponent on copyright in the 19th Century movement argued along these lines. He claimed, “All Mr. Tucker has the right to demand is that these things shall not be brought to his own private house and placed before his eyes.”[10] Tucker responded,

Some man comes along and parades in the streets and we are told that, in consequence of this act on his part, we must either give up our liberty to walk the streets or else our liberty to ideas … Not so fast my dear sir! … Were you compelled to parade on the streets? And why do you ask us to protect you from the consequences?[11]

Moreover, the introduction of an implied contract between the poet and listener is a two-edged sword. To fall back on some sort of implied agreement implicitly admits that copyright is a matter of contract, not of natural law for one does not need to fall back on contract to protect natural rights. If a man steals your money, there is no need to appeal to an agreement—implied or otherwise—to justify a demand for restitution. Restitution occurs because it was your money. Only when you are dealing with those things to which you have no natural right must you appeal to contract.

Historically, copyright has been handled differently than patents. Many people accept copyrights while rejecting patents. The distinction is usually based on two points: (1) literature is considered pure, personal creation as opposed to inventions which rely on the discovery of relationships that already exist within within nature: and (2) independent creation of literature is considered to be impossible. Copyright is said to protect style or the pattern of expression rather than the ideas expressed. By contrast, most people agree that ideas themselves can be independently and even simultaneously created—for example, Walras, Jevons and Menger all separately originated the theory of marginal utility—but they do not agree that style can be independently or honestly duplicated.

The issue of duplication of style raises interesting questions. For one thing, it is not unknown for poetry, especially short poems, to closely resemble each other. Do these chance similarities constitute duplication? Do they violate copyright laws? If they don’t, what prevents me from taking Atlas Shrugged and publishing it under my name after changing one word in each sentence? This would produce a similar pattern but not a duplicate one. If copyright would prevent me from doing this, then it is aimed not only at prohibiting exact duplications but at prohibiting similarities as well. And similarities are quite within the realm of honest possibility, especially when the guidelines of what constitute similarity are vague.

Many advocates of copyright would argue that honest similarities in nature are impossible or highly improbable. But laws should be based on principle, not upon probability. Tucker wrote:

To discuss the degrees of probability is to shoot wide of the mark. Such questions as this are not to be decided by rule of thumb or by the law of chances, but in accordance with some general principle … among the things not logically impossible. I know of few nearer the limit of possibility than that I should ever desire to publish in the middle of the desert of Sahara: nevertheless, this would scarcely justify any great political power in giving someone a right to stake out a claim comprising that entire region and forbid me to set up a printing press.[12]

In short, a question of right must be determined by a general theory of rights, not the likelihood of circumstances.

In regard to the ownership of a form of expression—of what is called “style”—Tucker believed that a particular combination of words belonged to no one; the method of expressing an idea was an idea in and itself and, therefore, “not appropriable.” As long as you are not claiming ownership of a specific instance of a book, but of the abstracted style of every instance of this book, you are claiming ownership of an idea.

Examples of styles or patterns surround us everywhere. In chairs, shoes, hairstyles, gardens, clothes, wallpaper, the arrangement of furniture … patterns are everywhere. And if it is out of respect for style that arrangements of words cannot be duplicated, then for that same reason, a shoemaker cannot duplicate shoes. Women cannot duplicate hairstyles or clothes for, after all, these items express style as much as a sonnet does. Yet it is only with the sonnet, with literature that the originators clamor for special, legal protection. If copyright were not the norm, if all of us had not grown up with it, we might consider it as absurd as a house owner claiming special, legal protection of the pattern of colors with which he had painted his home or the arrangement of rocks in his garden.

Indeed, to be consistent, the copyright advocate has to reduce his position to similar absurdity. For example, not merely writing but all of speech is a personal form of expression; speech is an arrangement of the alphabet in much the same manner as writing is. Therefore, by the advocate’s own standards, a man should be entitled to legal protection for every sentence he utters so that no one thereafter can utter it without his consent. Lysander Spooner, a defender of copyright much quoted by libertarians, seemed to consider this possibility when he wrote, “So absolute is an author’s right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases.”[13]

Think about that statement; it is frightening in its implications for the free flow of ideas and knowledge upon which human progress depends. I do not believe state-enforced copyright protects the just profits of an author. I agree with George Bernard Shaw who contended “copyright is the cry of men who are not satisfied with being paid for their work once but insist upon being paid twice, thrice and a dozen times over.”[14] I believe free market copyright would temper the immense profits that can be made from writing, and that they should be tempered because such profits do not reflect just rewards so much as they do a state monopoly.

Moreover, I do not believe that the absence of state enforcement would destroy literature Most of the world’s great authors—Shakespeare for example—wrote without copyright. As for the possible destruction of the publishing industry, Tucker—a publisher—explained:

Why did two competing editions of the Kreutzer Sonata [a book he issued —WM] appear on the market before mine had had the field two months? Simply because money was pouring into my pockets with a rapiditv that nearly took my breath away. And after my rivals took the field if poured in faster than ever.[15]

As a writer I am eager to maximize my profits. I am not so eager. however, that I would claim ownership to what is in your mind. My attitude toward writers and lecturers who throw their products into the streets and, yet, claim legal protection as they do so is the same as that once uttered by Tucker: “You want your invention to yourself? Then keep it to yourself.”[16]

The energy being expended in debating intellectual property would be better used in exploring methods by which the free market could protect the just rewards of intellectual products.

*Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is author of several books and maintains two active websites: wendymcelroy.com and ifeminists.com. This article contains a new introduction and a revised version of McElroy’s “Contra Copyright,” The Voluntaryist 3, no. 4 (June 1985), http://www.voluntaryist.com/toc.html.

Cite this article as: Wendy McElroy, “Contra Copyright, Again,” Libertarian Papers 3, 12 (2011). Online at: libertarianpapers.org. This article is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (creativecommons.org/licenses). Published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[1]See Ayn Rand, “Patents and Copyrights,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1970).

[2]Lysander Spooner, The Law of Intellectual Property; Or an Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas (1855), p. 125, http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2243&Itemid=27.

[3]SEK3’s views on IP are expressed in Samuel Edward Konkin III, “Copywrongs,” The Voluntaryist (July 1986), http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/konkin1.1.1.html.

[4]See J. Neil Schulman, “Informational Property—Logorights,” Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 13 no. 2 (1990), pp. 93–117,

http://jneilschulman.agorist.com/2009/12/classic-j-neil-informational-property-logorights/.

[5]For further discussion of Tucker’s views on property and IP, see my article “Copyright and Patent in Benjamin Tucker’s Periodical,” Mises Daily (July 28, 2010), originally published in Wendy McElroy, ed., The Debates of Liberty: An Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881–1908 (Lexington, 2003).

[6]“More on Copyright,” Liberty 7 (December 27, 1890): 5.

[7]“Copyright.–IV,” Liberty 8 (May 30, 1891): 3.

[8]Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson (Aug. 13, 1813), http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.html.

[9]“A New Argument Against Copyright,” Liberty 8 (May 16, 1891): 5.

[10]“The Right to Authorship,” Liberty 7 (February 21, 1891): 4.

[11]Commentary on “The Right to Authorship,” Liberty 7 (February 21, 1891): 5.

[12]Commentary on Yarros, “More About Copyright,” Liberty7 (Dec 27, 1890): 4, at 5.

[13] Spooner, The Law of Intellectual Property, p. 125.

[14]Quoted in Clarence Lee Swartz, What is Mutualism? (1927), http://www.panarchy.org/swartz/mutualism.5.html.

[15]Commentary on “The Reward of Authors,” Liberty 7 (January 10, 1891): 6.

[16]“The Knot-Hole in the Fence,” Liberty 7 (April 18, 1891): 6.



J. Neil Schulman Reply

I could not blame Wendy McElroy for not being prepared to debate the new theory of property rights I first presented in debate with her, but she’s now had thirty years to debate my theory and she has still never done it. For in that presentation I undercut all the assumptions she was prepared to debate and in effect left her to debate the straw man she brought into the room with her. She is still debating that straw man. She has never debated me.

Wendy was prepared to debate statist copyrights and patents. Wendy was prepared to refute the ownership of ideas. Wendy was prepared to argue that the intangible could not be owned. Wendy was prepared to argue that no one could own what existed only inside someone else’s head.

I rejected all of those assumptions in the first five minutes of my presentation. I rejected both the terms “copyright” and “intellectual property” in the first fifteen minutes.

Maybe Wendy should have taken some notes and actually tried to answer my presentation. Instead, she went on with her pre-prepared speech and left it to the audience to listen and debate with me.

One of the audience members — Robert LeFevre — lent his endorsement to my presentation when I soon published it as a pamphlet. Unfortunately after thirty years LeFevre’s actual words are in a storage locker in a box somewhere, and it will be a while before I can recover them.

What Wendy has never in thirty years addressed is that my logorights theory is not a theory of intellectual property but a new natural-rights theory of property deriving from the concept of “material identity.” Previous theories of property made a distinction between real property — and Locke wrote about ownership arising from a man mixing his labor with land to homestead it — and everything else, which was regarded as ephemeral if not completely intangible. Nineteenth century libertarians divided along a false dichotomy because what property actually was and how it came into being had never been rigorously defined.

That’s the task I took on in my debate with Wendy and in the articles that soon followed.

My argument should not be hard to understand for someone like Wendy who has a familiarity with Ayn Rand’s Aristotelian-based epistemology and ontology.

If an author writes an original work that work is not the materials upon which the work is printed. This might have been a hard concept to understand in the age before computers — although I think Morse and Tesla could easily have grasped it — but an author created something which is objectively real and can be apprehended, as can any real thing, by observing its component properties.

When I completed writing my first novel Alongside Night it was not something intangible existing only in my mind. The process of writing was making something that was objectively real and capable of being seen by others than myself. The whole nature and purpose of authorship is other-directed.

The first medium that carried the novel was typing paper; but over the years this real and new thing I made has existed not just as typescript but also in bound books, on computer disks, as information objects transmitted over media both wired and wireless; and soon to be both an audio dramatization from Sound of Liberty/ARTC and a movie produced and directed by me, from my own screenplay adaptation.

None of these things are ideas. None of these things owe their existence to what is in someone else’s head. All of these things are reflections and usages of a thing I made and the component properties and uses that can be extracted from the whole.

I have used several different terms to explain this over the past thirty years since my first presentation. I have called these things a “logos” and the property rights in them logorights. I have used the terms “informational property” and referred to the “material identity” which makes anything ownable as property.

I specifically addressed the necessity of property, to be an economic good, to be scarce, and explained how a property, to be ownable, does not need to be limited in all dimensions (land ownership, for example, does not own the unlimited sky above it), but only in some dimensions.

I’ve explained how the limits of what a specific logos or information is by the Law of Identity makes it a scarce item of commerce, no matter that there be a single copy or a trillion. The copies being identical to the original, the number of existents vary but the entity — thing — itself remains unique and therefore scarce because copying does not change its defining identity.

As I recently posted elsewhere:

How many copies of Atlas Shrugged exist? Millions. How many Atlas Shrugged‘s are there? One. Atlas Shrugged is just as scarce a commodity as the day Ayn Rand finished the manuscript. It was one Atlas Shrugged then and one Atlas Shrugged now. Atlas Shrugged is a unique thing. Only the number of carriers of that singular and scarce object varies.

I’ve also explained how separating out rights for different uses of that property — and licensing them — is no different than leasing a house or apartment, or dividing use of a space by time (as in a timeshare), or selling a ride in a car as opposed to the car itself — and that the assumption that, in allowing others to observe and make use of a created work of distinct material identity the owner abandons his ownership of the thing, necessarily must annihilate the concept of private property entirely.

Most recently, in an attempt to leave in my rearview mirror the straw-man debates about owning ideas, intangibles, and what is in other people’s minds, I have devised the term Media Carried Property (MCP) as a replacement for the misleading term IP — even when by that abbreviation I meant not Intellectual Property but Informational Property.

MCP says what I mean better and without as much baggage.

Wendy has never addressed any of this. Perhaps she believes one has to be long dead before one’s ideas should be addressed.

Or maybe Victor Koman was just more dashing than I was.

References:

The Libertarian Case for IP

MCP


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MCP


In a discussion on the Mises Economics Blog I’ve decided the term “Media Carried Property” (“MCP”) is far more self-explanatory of the concept I’ve been advocating as logorights for three decades than any use of the abbreviation “IP” — either as Intellectual Property or even my own previous usage, Informational Property.

The implications of this debate inevitably extend not to the narrow discussion of “IP” but to all property. This will happen because at some point technology will more than likely enable Star Trek-like transporters in which matter is disassembled then reassembled elsewhere and “material identity” will be the defining feature of all property; or because human beings will enter into virtual realities where, once again, no property has a physical presence other than “material identity.”

The Transporter

In fact, any truly advanced technological civilization, if it has property rights at all, will regard an original “sample” as the only property worth having, since everything else will be replicable.

So, now’s the time to stake out the defining propertarian position for the rest of economic destiny. If the Stephan Kinsellas do manage to wipe out what they call IP and I’ll now be calling MCP, the future will eventually be one with no property rights at all.

References:

The Libertarian Case for IP

Mises Economics Blog: The Origins of Libertarian IP Abolitionism


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