Uncopyright “Policy”

TL;DR Summary: I release my content from copyright. Feel free to copy my ideas, adapt them (or not), and make them your own.

I would like it if you linked back to me, when relevant, as the source of inspiration—but I will not require that, for any citation of content produced on this website.

The only exception to this uncopyright “policy” is content that I produce elsewhere as part of a contract that includes intellectual property (such as what I’ve written for Platform University).

Rationale (For The Curious)

In a high-school class on Government & Economics, I was first introduced to Austrian Economics by means of Richard J. Maybury’s series of short books. Very quickly, I latched onto the simplest description of natural law that I’ve ever read, before or since.

Like the law of gravity or the first law of thermodynamics, natural law represents the rules which exist beneath the surface of our day-to-day lives, which dictate how we interact with the world and what consequences come from them.

This “law of society”, if you will, explains why certain actions work or don’t work in polite culture, and form the source of all historical efforts to maintain civility, and avoid crime or war. The simplest, consistently useful articulation of natural law I’ve ever read are Maybury's Laws:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do.
  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

The first natural law is the basis of informal agreements and formal contracts. It’s important that you do what you agree to do (and conversely, don’t do what you have agreed not to do) because otherwise communication would be worthless, and no one would trust you.

The second natural law is the basis of property rights and criminal (or tort) law. It’s important to respect other people’s boundaries to maintain boundaries of your own. The same courtesy extends to people’s property because otherwise, you could never let you guard down.

Both laws are the basis of human decency and healthy relationships. They’re what we teach our kids right away with variations of “Don’t hit!”, “Don’t snatch!”, and “Tell me the truth”.

They’re the same laws that lead our instincts to cry out against oppression, theft, or betrayal. Those words have power because they represent defiance against the natural law that underpins society.

That’s all well and good, and you may be nodding your head up until this point, but the second natural law became a bit tricky in 1624 when England’s parliament set a precedent with The Statute of Monopolies and extended property rights to include ideas, designs, or written words.

Up until then, property rights were pretty straight forward. If I have a thing, it is mine. You cannot take it from me, because then I would no longer have it. That would be theft, in violation of the second natural law.

Not so with intellectual property, because as soon as you’ve read these words they exist in your mind while also existing in mine. I have the thing, and you have it too.

In fact, you can load these words on as many computer screens as you should choose to without taking any words away from the other computer screens or from my mind (good luck doing the same with a house or a cow).

The right to property is fundamentally based on the concept of scarcity. If there is no scarcity, there is no natural reason to hoard possessions. If I had unlimited things, then of course you could have one of mine. You taking one away would make no difference because I still had unlimited things.

The only reason to keep my unlimited things would be to maintain a monopoly, so I could hoard all the unlimited things and dole them out to other people at my mercy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many laws in place that protect intellectual property in most countries today, but those are man-made laws above and beyond natural law. I respect them and follow them, but I do not endorse or enforce them.

I do not believe that property rights should be extended to anything that can be duplicated without diminishing the initial copy. In the internet age, the written word is as important as ever—but ideas flow from one person so the next, in individual interpretations and expressions without staying stuck in one person’s mind. That’s a beautiful process, and I won’t unnecessarily complicate it.

Ironically, this is not an entirely original concept. You could argue that I “stole” it from Leo Babauta's Uncopyright Policy or Elon Musk's abandonment of patents, but that's kind of the point. Originality is overrated.