DISCLAIMER: This site is a mirror of original one that was once available at http://iki.fi/~tuomov/b/
After having discussed the distinction between Property and Possession, and attempts at justififying property in Part 1 of this essay, this second part concentrates on the question of intellectual property.
A few people on the far right of the political spectrum obviously support physical property, but go on to oppose intellectual property on the grounds that it is a state-granted monopoly. Well, here's news to them: so is physical property! Oh, the hypocrisy! It doesn't change matters whether the state is public or private, as envisioned by some of these propertarians. This argument can therefore be outright dismissed as hypocritical. It, however, turns out that the remaining arguments also have a similar backlash, to one degree or another.
A very popular argument, found in multiple disguises, against intellectual property but in support of physical property, is that an indefinite number of copies can be made of every bit of information, but not of material things. In other words, intellectual property serves to create artificial scarcity. But so does physical property, although not in such extreme extent as intellectual property. As I have demonstrated in Part 1 of this essay, property is the right to govern the occupant and the user, and therefore the right and might to usury, (capitalist) profit and rent – the right of increase that Proudhon talks about, and with more or less success demonstrates to be "impossible". The result is a price level that not everyone can afford despite sufficient supply, and hence artificial scarcity. Likewise, property can direct production from necessities for the labouring masses to luxuries for the elite, again working towards what essentially amounts to artificial scarcity. These claims are demonstrated by the observation that while food is let to spoil in the "developed" world and local produce are substituted for third world imports, people in the third world as well as the first, are famishing. Admittedly, there's not enough of everything for everyone in the domain of material things, but once again other schemes, including different forms of right of possession, should be fully capable of allocating these resources, with varying degrees of equitability – something at which property seems to have the tendency to fail, instead leading to wealth condensation and its more nefarious side effects.
Finally, we have the argument that intellectual property rights do not (any longer) serve their original purpose. Copyright and patents were originally purportedly (the printing and other industries already had their finger on things) created to ensure compensation and provide incentive for the author and the inventor; to make the system "work", so to say. But the argument goes that intellectual property rights are infact unnecessary or even harmful towards that purpose, or no longer serve it with megacorporations owning and having cross-licensed almost everything. Patents have become an unpenetrable swamp, the major functions of which are to feed the Work idol by creating jobs for lawyers, and to scare the little people out from the playing field. The economic incentive factor has been demonstrated unnecessary by, among others, free software and the times before such laws. Besides, various other schemes can be devised for economic compensation, including benefactors, different forms of commissioned works, and "collective shareware", where the (primary) authors do not release the full work until some sum has been collectively paid (via some escrow service). Moreover, intellectual property rights have become impractical. In the age before digital communications were available to the masses, copying was difficult, and it was practical to compensate the author while paying for the media itself. Now that is no longer the case, and any attempts to cling to the old model will only result in despotic systems to control the people; the ideology of copyright takes hold over material reality.
These are all very valid arguments against intellectual property from certain points of view, mine as well, but they are also arguments against physical property, for the vast majority of wealth (i.e. property) is concentrated in the hands of a small minority of people, huge corporations and states, and such great inequalities require an extensive machinery of violence to maintain, and create authoritarian social relationships by dissociating use from ownership. These are also arguments that intellectual property creates artificial scarcity, artificial barriers and doesn't work "anymore" – for some people. We're thus back in the matter of the previous paragraphs; the totality of physical property likewise creates artificial scarcity and barriers by not being based on actual occupancy and use, and is thus impractical and doesn't work – for some.
Regarding incentive, it is of course claimed that (physical) property is necessary to make people hold Jobs and do Work. ("Who would do all the work if there were no poor?") To that it suffices to reply that the desire for captive works of the intellect has a similar effect, although on a lesser scale and, indeed, property not only provides an incentive, but contributes to coercing people to do far more Work than would be necessary by creating artificial scarcity and playing a part in feeding consumerism, not to even mention the Work required to uphold the regime of property. In other words, property "works" for those who want other people to Work for them; those who want to be the slave-masters in an society of wage slavery. That property i.e. coercion is necessary for basic necessities and even small luxuries to be produced in an organised fashion, seems highly unlikely; that cooperation is beneficial is told by the simple fact that production on a miniscule scale just for oneself takes up a lot of time that could be used for something else. Infact, property may be counterproductive towards this kind of efficiency, if labour is cheap. As Kropotkin says,
it is remarkable that when economists, wishing to celebrate the blessings of property, show us how an unproductive, marshy, or stony soil is clothed with rich harvests when cultivated by the peasant proprietor, they in nowise prove their thesis in favour of private property. By admitting: that the only guarantee not to be robbed of the fruits of your labour is to possess the instruments of labour – which is true – the economists only prove that man really produces most when he works in freedom, when he has a certain choice in his occupations, when he has no overseer to impede him, and lastly, when he sees his work bringing in a profit to him and to others who work like him [The Conquest of Bread, Section XII.I]
We have thus seen that intellectual property is not really that different from physical property, and that all the usual types of justifications for physical property can be used to justify intellectual property and, conversely, the standard arguments against intellectual property can be turned into arguments against physical property. Thus, anyone who supports physical property and opposes intellectual property on grounds other than "it works for me" (directly or indirectly), is a hypocrite, a liar, or both.
But if one takes the stance that intellectual property should be abolished, should one promote something to replace it? Against physical property, one may advocate the formalisation the fact of possession of the physical reality as some (or any) form of a stabilising right of possession. For the author and the inventor, however, the right of possession can be nothing more than the right to not be robbed off unpublished works. This may very well be quite sufficient from various points of view. But maybe it is possible for authors and inventors to have a little more rights without seriously impeding on other's liberties. After all, even while admitting the social nature of all works of intellect, it is simply common courtesy to give credit where it is due, when immediate contributors to a work can be identified. Thus a rather acceptable compromise for authors' and inventors' rights could be such a simple rule of all healthy human discourse as: do not mislead (and lie to) others if you know better. This right to attribution indeed sounds more true to the implied positive meaning of droit d'auteur, right of the author, than the wholly negative copyright – the right to control copying and other use – for which the former is the highly misleading term and rhetorical device in many languages.
Moreover, reputation is one of the "incentives" on which the free software (and science) "economy" builds, and arises from attribution: "Do not claim that you had a bigger part on something than you really had. Do not downplay others' part. But also do not downplay your part: do not claim something to be something else that it is not." Indeed, this sounds very close in spirit to the BSD-style and Clarified Artistic free software licenses. GPL, on the other hand, demands much more; it demands something that can lead the trivial right to attribution also being violated just for those demands' sake. Of course, the demands of the GPL being followed is very desirable for various reasons. But should there be a codified right (might) to the enforcement of those demands? Should the right to attribution be codified either? Wouldn't it be better to simply resort to social pressure, the way the GPL has been primarily enforced so far? In the right social context, such codification is in no way necessary, and thus irrelevant, because it is beneficial to follow the requested code of conduct in the vast majority of cases. Such was the case with copyright for the private individual, but is no longer. In other contexts, reasons can be found for and against, depending on how one wants things to "work".
Interestingly, the principle behind trademarks can also be seen to be rather similar to this rule of thumb. Infact, trademarks also bear some resemblance to rights of possession. One of the very derided aspects, that one has to go after violators of the trademark or will lose it, is infact very possession-like as opposed to property-like. Of course, actual trademark legislations tend to extend this simple right to identifiability to a comprehensive right of property: the holder of a trademark on a name or a design may govern the use of anything bearing even minimal resemblance to it.
To conclude, I reiterate that there really isn't any fundamental difference between intellectual and physical property, any difference is mostly a matter of scales, but that there are alternatives to both intellectual property and physical property, as we have seen, unlike some would like people to believe. These alternatives work differently, and can be used to reach some of the same objectives, and some quite different objectives. Which objectives matter and which methods are used to pursue them, ultimately depend on culture and power relations in society; there's no objective justification for either kind of property.