Circular arguments

One of the arguments defenders of intellectual property rights use is that if we accept contract rights, we must accept intellectual property rights. The problem with this argument is that it is circular.

Assume that contract rights are universally agreed upon, but intellectual property rights are not. Now assume that individual A agrees to trade individual B the rights to use a piece of intellectual property X in exchange for quantity of money Y, on the condition that B does not share X with anyone else. Based on our initial assumption, this contract is universally agreed upon as valid.

However, now assume that individual C enters the picture. Individual B gives, sells or trades X to C. This clearly violates the contract between A and B, and we would all agree that A can hold B responsible for contract violation. But did C do anything wrong? C was not a party to the contract between A and B.

At this point, the defender of intellectual property rights argues that C did something wrong because C's ownership of X without payment to A violates A's property rights. But this is begging the question! We cannot prove that intellectual property rights are valid by pointing to a contractual relationship and simply assuming the validity of intellectual property rights within the process of arguing for contract rights.

In other words, if we do not first assume that intellectual property rights are valid, C has done nothing wrong. He did not violate any contract because he was never a party to a contract. If the validity of intellectual property rights are to be proven, they must be proven in some other way.

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Micha, As I understand it,

Micha,

As I understand it, you are essentially saying that IP rights cannot be created out of thin air by the existence of contract.

If IP rights exist a priori, then contracts simply serve to outline the terms of exchange.

If IP rights do not exist a priori, then contracts cannot create them, because it would be circular to claim that third parties who are not party to the contract are violating IP rights, because those rights were only 'created' between the initial two parties.

Correct.

Correct.