This comic was inspired by a controversy over the Shire Society Declaration. The construction of the declaration was begun with a work by Libertarian author, L. Neil Smith. Many changes were made after a lengthy discussion, but they remain quite similar according to a number of people. I haven’t actually read the original work and I got turned off to the discussion for reasons described here. I did ultimately find myself in enough agreement with the final product to sign it.
L. Neil Smith feels he has been plagiarized and has even mentioned that he CCed an email complaint to his lawyer, though I have yet to hear of any explicit threats of legal action. This has resulted in a lengthy discussion of the notion of intellectual property and whether it’s a valid claim of property from a voluntaryist viewpoint.
One of the most eminently reasonable comments I’ve read about this controversy is from the Free Talk Live forum:
Even if you subscribe to the theory that L. Neil’s words and ideas are his even if you buy them from him, he still would not own the application of such, which is what the Shire Society did.
That would be like John Shaw writing a book on making flat screens or film editing and then claiming to own all the flat screens or films that readers may create in the future.
And in fact, it seems like he’d be really proud that someone was inspired enough to want to put his idea into motion in such a bold way.
My own views of intellectual property are a bit nuanced. I definitely don’t believe anyone is entitled to damages or restitution because someone copied, not stole, your shit. In that sense, I’m completely anti-IP. On the other hand, I believe in the notion of IP in the sense that you can own an idea to the extent that you can “protect it” without violence. You can either keep it secret or you can do a good enough job of branding it or at least date-stamping it so others will have difficulty claiming it as their own. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to make money off of copies but it might help you to counter that and make the money yourself in a peaceful manner. I’m also a big fan of people expanding on ideas and making them better. I think claims of damages for copying are unreasonable and they impede that creative process which many consumers stand to benefit from. I’m also a big fan of reverse-engineering actual physical products and making your own versions of them, possibly improved or just at a lower price. Patents are bullshit. This is something else that consumers stand to benefit greatly from.
The work above is actually an original work by Davi Barker. Sure, he constructed it with slightly modified pieces of my comics, but it’s an original work that I feel he deserves credit for creating. My comics are instantly reproducible and therefore not at all scarce. It’s my responsibility to figure out how to make money from such a product. I do feel I deserve the common courtesy of being given credit for the building blocks of it, but that doesn’t imply damages or restitution of any sort, and he did give me credit. He was able to construct his comic without doing any damage to me or my property whatsoever. It seems absurd to claim “damages”. Such a claim relies on the absurd notion that you are entitled to make money off your works. In fact, because he did provide such an obvious credit to the building blocks of his work, his comic will most likely act as free promotion of my works! Why should I complain about that?