Today a reader drew my attention to David Irving’s Action Report On-line. The main page of the site currently bears the message:
We apologise for the interruption to website service today Thursday, January 15, 2004: this was caused by legal interference from LewRockwell.com
I was not familiar with David Irving; he appears to be a crank. I found no explanation for the nature of the claimed interference so I did a search of the domain. I found this page which comments by Irving on the right and this text in the left column:
The item on which this column commented, a short article by Lew Rockwell, has been removed from the website at the insistence of Kinsella, Rockwell’s attorney.
Stephan Kinsella? I don’t know that Stephan Kinsella is Rockwell’s attorney but he is certainly an attorney who writes for Rockwell.
Here is an archived version of the page with the original LRC material. What the current page characterizes as a short article by Lew Rockwell is this blog entry by Lew Rockwell. In his comments I see nothing from Irving about Rockwell’s piece, he apparently used the Rockwell piece as a jumping off point.
So what happened here? It sounds like Action Report On-line was briefly taken down as a result of legal action taken or threatened by LRC via Stephan Kinsella. It sounds like Rockwell didn’t like seeing his blog entry on a crackpot site and sought to legally exercise his intellectual property rights to the material.
I certainly understand why Rockwell would take such action. His piece was framed on ARO in a manner that could easily lead a visitor to believe that Rockwell contributed an article to the site. I recognize that Rockwell has a right to his work which entails a right to prevent it from being used on ARO in that manner.
But does Rockwell have a principled leg to stand on in making such a claim? He routinely publishes, promotes and praises articles arguing against intellectual property rights in principle. He has characterized intellectual property rights as “coercive monopolies for particular producers in rich countries”. If that’s so than wouldn’t invoking IP rights himself amount to enforcing a monopoly of a particular producer?
It’s clear that Stephan Kinsella would have to abandon his philosophical principles to pursue such a claim. I’ve written about this problem for Kinsella here and here. Kinsella has been quite explicit on the matter of intellectual property:
One thing that is striking about advocating intellectual property rights–rights in non-scarce things–is that one is inevitably bound up in a self-contradictory position. For although they want to say that non-scarce things (like ideas, inventions, etc.) are “just as much property” as are scarce things like physical resources, they always, when it comes down to it, want to enforce IP rights against scarce resources.
If Kinsella is correct that intellectual property rights do no exist then he would do wrong to invoke force to secure such fictions.
Kinsella attempted to harmonize his position on intellectual property with his actions before:
Surely it is not inconsistent to drive on public roads, avail oneself of public military, police & fire department services, use public libraries, attend public schools, fly on a publicly-inspected airplane, eat publicly-inspected food, and so on, by virtue of opposing such public functions. If so, what is the argument that it is is “inconsistent” to oppose IP but to recognize the legal terrain we actually have to cope with?
Again, here’s the difference: In the absence of government interference it would be perfectly moral to procure any of these goods or services in a free market. By his own moral theory intellectual property rights are a fiction and Kinsella could have no exclusive right to any intellectual product in a free market.