Property rights are an essential parts of our civil liberties because in a very real sense, property rights are an extension – and confirmation – of the principle of self-ownership.
How can I be in favour of protecting property rights, but at the same time oppose the copyright industry?
It may seem like a contradiction, but a deeper look will reveal that copyright and property rights – though related – are not exactly one and the same thing.
Property is physical and material: it can only be possessed by one owner at a time. If I steal your DVD of a movie, you no longer have the ability to enjoy possessing it. By stealing, I have deprived you of possessing something. It is possible to justify a law that does not permit me to deprive you of some object against your will .
Ideas do not work in the same way. If I begin using your idea, I have not deprived you of the use of the idea: it’s still available for you to do with it what you please. But, is it reasonable to forbid me to think your idea and incorporate it into my own thoughts to produce a new idea or product?
Is that not a little too close to criminalizing thought?