Copyright Symbol

Our Copyright Policy

All the prose content on the Zero Aggression Project website is copyrighted by its authors, unless otherwise noted.

None of these copyrights are filed with the Federal State, nor are they likely to be enforced via a State court. Permission to copy and distribute any of the material on this site is hereby granted on the following basis…

  • You are sharing the material for educational rather than commercial purposes

  • You retain the author attributions and copyright notice

  • You notify the reader that the material was originally published at the website of the Zero Aggression Project

  • You link back to the original url for the material if you are reposting it on the web, or…

  • You give credit to the authors and the organization either in the text or in footnotes

  • You don’t edit the material, but quote it as it was written. In fact you can quote liberally!

So what will happen if you violate the above requirements?

Hopefully you will feel bad about it and quickly take steps to correct the problem. If we find out about it, we will certainly ask you to do so. Should you refuse to comply, or should your use of our material become wanton and widespread, we will probably make an effort to publicize your transgression. This may cost you customers and public trust.

Were we to exist in a post-statist society we might even take the case to a jury and ask for a judgement, though we would be unlikely to use a statist court for this purpose. In general, we think…

  • Customers will prefer to do business with those who create material, in order to foster further creation

  • The harm done by copyright violations is minimal

  • Public shaming and shunning are more appropriate to these kinds of transgressions than is state-mediated, violent retaliation

  • Jury judgments can be useful in extreme situations to further isolate the transgressor, but this will be expensive and useful only as a last resort in the most extreme cases.

In short, we make it easy for you to use and benefit from our material in a moral way. You merely have to exercise empathy. Treat us the way you would want to be treated. Follow our simple and reasonable requirements. This is our post-statist approach to copyright.

Show Comments 25


  1. Intellectual property is another fiction, and one violently enforced by the State.
    Whom is aggressed upon when a “Copyright” is “violated”, and in what way?
    Did someone aggress against your person, your land?
    Did they steal your property so that you now unable to utilize it?
    The answer to all these questions is No.
    Lets say a Jury decides that I wrote down in my book 10 words that you wrote down in your book.
    Are they going to cage me?
    Steal my property?
    Are you really advocating initiating violence so that your ideas can be kept monopolized?
    If you wish to possess a monopoly on an idea, keep it in your head. Once shared, which you voluntarily choose to do, you no longer possess a monopoly on its contents.
    All of this concern comes from the following quote:
    “Jury judgments can be useful in extreme situations to further isolate the transgressor, but this will be expensive and useful only as a last resort in the most extreme cases.”
    What exactly will a Jury do to “further isolate the transgressor”, and what exactly was transgressed?
    What qualifies as “extreme cases”?

    1. Post

      I think we largely agree on intellectual property Stephen. But this does not mean that we consider it morally right for someone to plagiarize a Stephen King novel and pass it off as their own. Copyright is in a stronger moral position than patents are, since combinations of written words tend to far greater author-specific uniqueness than do discoveries and inventions. Even so, this does not mean that force should be used to stop plagiarism. Instead…
      Public shaming seems the more appropriate response. Juries can also play a role in this, not in the sense of creating the grounds for violent retaliation, but because they can create a factual record that others can consult when deciding whether or not to do business with a plagiarist. It may even be that juries could decide on monetary judgments against plagarists, but the process of collection would depend entirely on the plagarist’s desire to re-establish his or her good standing in the community. This is the kind of role we see for juries in this kind of case — as a tool to establish reputation, and NOT as a prelude to some kind of violent remedy.
      We will be describing more about this approach in future articles.
      Perry Willis

      1. Thanks for the reply Perry. I think we do agree on many issues, and likely more than we realize. Its so great to find a like-mined individual in this statistic world. This website it a fantastic resource for exploring the ideas of freedom.
        However, I would strongly suggest refraining from using language that even hints of the initiation of violence. I agree that Juries CAN be used to make declarations, but this is not the function that people currently assign to a Jury. Currently, and as widely understood, Juries are used to justify the initiation of violence by the State. Just like the authors of this site dislike using the word anarchy to describe the stateless world they advocate, even though the word anarchy’s denotation means a stateless society, the word is shunned because of the undesired connotations of the masses.
        Now on a point you mentioned about plagiarizing.
        “But this does not mean that we consider it morally right for someone to plagiarize a Stephen King novel and pass it off as their own.”
        To say you wrote something when you didn’t is fraud. An individual whom pays for private security, such as would be found without the state monopoly of police today, would violate their contract of protection when committing fraud, as no protection service could sustain customers that commit fraud. This is a problem that could be peacefully sorted out in the marketplace.

        1. Post

          Hi Stephen.
          I would say that any force that results from a jury verdict is defense-retaliatory, rather than initiated force. And there are already many jury verdicts, in civil cases, that don’t result in retaliatory force. I think a copyright case would be like that.
          Your argument about fraud is interesting. It would be a new approach I think, but it might work. Fraud cases are normally brought by customers who didn’t get what they paid for. Would readers really bring a class action suit against Perry Willis for passing off a Stephen King novel as his own? Maybe, but the action is more likely to come from the author, rather than the reader. Is Perry Willis really committing fraud against Stephen King in such a case? Interesting stuff to ponder. Thanks for your comments and involvement.
          Perry Willis

          1. “I would say that any force that results from a jury verdict is defense-retaliatory, rather than initiated force.”
            This, unfortunately, is not true. Let me present a very sad, but very real scenario.
            A man is wrongly accused of murdering someone. The innocent man trusts that there is no way he will be found guilty because he is innocent. The prosecutor uses propaganda, lies, and manipulation to convince the jury the man is guilty. The jury finds the man guilty. The judge sentences the man to death. An executioner kills the man because the judge tells him to. The judge told him to because the jury found him guilty.
            The topic of arbitration is both interesting and important. The only consistent form of arbitration when it come to non-aggression, is voluntary arbitration. This requires that all parties in a dispute get to choose the arbitrator for the disputes they have. This completely goes against the current notion of juries, which are coercive by nature. Check this out: http://www.net-arb.com/
            Now for the topic of fraud.
            Lets say that Perry Willis writes a new book and lies about the authorship by claiming the author is Stephen King, and not just any Stephen King but specifically the best selling and award winning Stephen King.
            Perry Willis would be committing fraud and libel against Stephen King and the customers who purchase the book.
            Any insurance agency who would provide protection for Perry Willis must exclude protection in cases where Perry Willis demonstrably commits fraud and libel. It would be impossible for a company to keep lying fraudulent customers, because they would then lie to and commit fraud against said company as well.
            Its great to chat with you Perry, and thanks for the speedy replies.

          2. Post

            Hi Stephen.
            I think your scenario of how copyright might be enforced absent a State is definitely possible, as is the one we describe. I think there would actually be multiple approaches. That’s one of the points of non-state institutions of governance and regulation. We want to end the regulatory mono-culture that uses force to impose one set of approaches on everyone, from the top down.
            As for juries that make mistakes — I think this possibility is going to limit the approach to punishment. There will be a turn toward compensation and away from punishment, for all but the worst cases, like serial killers, for instance. I also think systems of remediation for jury mistakes will evolve. I’m not persuaded that jury mistakes have the effect of moving juries from the defensive side of the ledger to the initiated force side. They may straddle the line in the case of mistakes, but the systems provided to protect against mistakes are so elaborate that it seems unfair to describe a mistake as an act of initiation. Initiation is an act of will, or of neglect (manslaughter), and it’s hard to see neglect in an adversarial system that requires a unanimous vote of 11 or 12 people.
            Perry Willis

  2. Kudos on a great site, from a fellow pro-copyright voluntaryist. I believe a free society will recognize and enforce copyright, for the same reasons it will enforce property rights in physical things: reasonable people understand that an intellectual work is an act of creation, i.e. homesteading, and rightly owned by its creator.
    The anti-IP libertarians typically sidestep the crucial point, that all legal rights are property rights, and all legal wrongs stem from property violations. Yes, plagiarism is fraud, but only because there is an inherent property right in the intellectual work. Absent that property right, taking another person’s writing is simply the finding of some un-owned thing.
    It does not matter if the plagiarist’s claim of authorship is false – lying is not automatically wrong. Lying is only wrong when it is used to deprive another of property. If I tell a lie in order to protect my own property from an aggressor, then my falsehood is entirely virtuous, even heroic. Am I obligated to tell a robber where I hide my jewelry? Of course not.
    Please remember: One can only contract regarding that which is one’s own property. If you imagine a society without the concept of intellectual property, you have no basis for any claim of fraud, nor ostracism, nor any of the other mechanisms suggested as solutions to plagiarism and false attribution.

    1. The enforcement of copyright creates an artificial scarcity of non-scarce goods.
      If you build a house on your land and I make a 100% copy of it on my land, I have not stolen your house, nor deprived you of your property in any way.
      – Ideas are not scarce.
      – Physical property is scarce.
      – People’s bodies are a scarce good.
      – Land is a scarce good.
      The enforcement of copyright advocates that violence should be used to prevent and punish the sharing of ideas that are declared forbidden to share.
      Copyrights are absolutely anti-voluntaryist.

      1. Post

        If you read our copyright policy careful there is no mention of violent retaliation. And the jury verdict mentioned is for purposes of public shaming only, like a credit check. Most civil judgement already work this way. No police show up with guns to collect.

    2. Post

      We agree in general, though there are some specifics to quibble about. The idea of IP includes both patents and copyrights. We think you’re right that a non-state legal system would protect copyrights. We do not think it would protect inventions. Being first past the post is already protection enough. Alexander Graham Bell did NOT deserve to have a monopoly on the telephone simply because he filed a patent claim first, or because someone ruled that he invented the mechanism first. See this Wikipedia article for more on this specific example — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Gray_and_Alexander_Bell_telephone_controversy
      So, who is anti-IP and who is not? If I support copyright but not patents, am I anti-IP or pro-IP. Likewise, if I think copyright should only be enforced by non-state means am I pro or anti-IP. I think the issue is more complex than can be represented by the label anti-IP.

      1. I respect and understand your position. I once held it too, but now I disagree.
        How would you foresee copyrights being enforced? Would it involve violence?

        1. Post

          No violence would be needed Stephen. Most consumers will prefer to shun those who take the work of others. Plagiarism is already punished by non-state forces in the absence of legislation against the practice. Of course, some piracy will always exist, even as it exists today under the statist regime, but any violence used to correct this is worse than the disease. I think we have seen this quite clearly with music. Pirating has diminished as prices have fallen in accordance with the consumer’s correct understanding that production and distribution costs had also fallen. The price mechanism was the correct cure for piracy, NOT the police power.

          1. Excellent. As long as its non-violent, I agree with it. The term enforcement may need to be replaced when talking about copyrights, because it implies the root of the word, force. What you have described would not be enforcement, because there would be no force. It would be more like copyright awareness.

    3. Mr. Baker writes, “The anti-IP libertarians typically sidestep the crucial point, that all legal rights are property rights, and all legal wrongs stem from property violations.”
      Quite the contrary, N. Stephan Kinsella argues against intellectual property on the grounds.
      Mr. Baker continues, “Yes, plagiarism is fraud, but only because there is an inherent property right in the intellectual work. Absent that property right, taking another person’s writing is simply the finding of some un-owned thing.”
      No. Let’s consider William Shakespeare, someone upon whom we can all agree, whether we believe in intellectual property or not.
      Shakespeare did not own his words when he was alive because government had not yet invented the idea of intellectual property. But, some might argue, he still had a natural right to own the words he strung together regardless of whether or not any government on earth had hitherto recognised such a right. Whether or not Shakespeare had a natural right to own his words when he was alive is admittedly somewhat moot.
      But, we can say with certainty that Shakespeare today doesn’t own anything—because he is dead. To quote the classical liberal Thomas Jefferson, “the dead have no rights. They are nothing; and nothing cannot own something.” Thus, William Shakespeare does not own the rights to, e.g., Romeo and Juliet. In fact, no one does.
      In fact, I could take the complete works of Shakespeare and publish them today, for profit, and no one would decry my action.
      But, what I cannot do is publish even a single Shakespearean work with my own name in place of Shakespeare’s. This is fraud—despite the fact that no one has a property right in the intellectual work.
      An action is fraudulent when it employs deception in order to result in financial gain. If I slap my name on Romeo and Juliet and pass it off as a play I authored, then I am violating the property rights of my customers by depriving them of their money (or whatever else they may’ve traded) under false pretenses. This could be seen as a violation of contract (even if no physical contract has been signed) because I am offering a play written by me and failing to deliver, delivering instead a play written by William Shakespeare. As such, justice would require that I pay restitution to my victims, i.e., my customers. Note that this is an example of fraud despite no one having a property right in the intellectual work.
      Sincerely yours,
      Alex Peak

      1. Error in previous post. I meant to write:
        Quite the contrary, N. Stephan Kinsella argues against intellectual property on the grounds that enforcement of so-called intellectual property necessarily infringes upon rights to physical property.

    4. Mr. Baker writes, “Lying is only wrong when it is used to deprive another of property.”
      Lying isn’t only wrong when it is used to deprive another of property. It’s only criminal when it’s used to deprive another of property, but it can be “wrong” even when it’s not criminal.
      For example, let’s say you and I are in a remote cabin, a two-day’s drive from the rest of the civilised world, and our only means of communicating with the outside world is my cell phone. Let’s say I come to you and say, “My cell phone is dead; we can’t make any outside calls. Look, I was talking to your family this morning while fishing. Your mother is in the hospital. She’s dying, and she only has twenty-four hours to live.”
      Saying this would put you in a lot of emotional distress. You think my cell phone is dead, and therefore that you will have no means by which to communicate with your family until your mother has already passed. You think your mother’s dying, when she’s really not. In this thought experiment, I have actually lied to you, but you don’t know this. You don’t know that your mother is actually fine. In this thought experiment, I have acted quite cruelly to you.
      Even though claiming your mother is dying is not criminal, would we not agree that it is still wrong?
      This isn’t to say that lying is always “wrong,” however, and your lying-to-a-robber example is a good one. There definitely are various instances where lying is not wrong, although I am, in general, inclined to say that it’s only ever not wrong when the lie is directed at a person who holds illegitimate power over another in order to protect the person over whom another holds said power.
      Here’s another example: Let’s say some Nazi officers come to Miep Gies’s door and asks, “Are you hiding any Jews?” Even though Gies is hiding Anne Frank and others in a secret annex, it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, for Gies to lie to the Nazi officer and claim he’s not hiding anyone.
      Or, to use a much more mundane example, if your neighbour is accused of consuming marijuana in a country where the political class claims its a “crime” to consume marijuana, and you are called to trial to testify against your neighbour, it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, for you to lie to the judge and jury and say, “I have no knowledge of my neighbour consuming marijuana.”
      Respectfully yours,
      Alex Peak

  3. Making people “aware” of “copyright”, and shunning them is a complete non-sequitor. If there is no property right, there is nothing wrong with a false claim of authorship, and thus no reason to shun anyone. If there is something wrong with a false claim of authorship, then there must be a property right violation somewhere. This simply flows from the understanding that all legal rights are property rights, and all legal wrongs are property violations.
    I appreciate the reluctance to use the word “force”. However, the voluntary society will legitimately employ force in defense of property. We can discuss what sorts of institutions might evolve to provide these services. Force is a last resort, but it is not difficult to imagine circumstances requiring the use of force to deal with an aggressor. If there is a property right in intellectual work, then plagiarism is aggression. As with other forms of aggression, force is the last option, but an option nonetheless.
    @ Stephan – Your (and Kinsella’s) assertion that a finished authored work is not scarce (actually you should use the term rivalrous), is just that – an assertion. In fact, intellectual goods are scarce and rivalrous in precisely the same way as physical goods. I’ve done a case-by-case examination of the logical rules in play, and demonstrated this. See:
    @ Perry – I agree with you (and Rothbard) that copyright is valid property, while patent is not. I arrive at that conclusion through the application of the doctrine of Intellectual Space (a praxeological examination of intellectual property). For an introductory article on how this works, see:
    Also, you had some definitional issues. I’ve provided definitions of key terms that I’ve been working with. Feel free to comment on any of the work I have posted so far on Intellectual Space.

    1. Hello Alexander,
      Thank you for taking the time to clearly state your position, and please call me Stephen, not Stephan. I would like you to justify two of your claims below.
      First, you claim that “intellectual goods are scarce”, but this just ain’t so. I am able to write a book and then email it to every person in the world. Please contrast this to the actual scarcity of physical goods such as oranges.
      Lastly, you claim that “plagiarism is aggression”, and that it justifies the use of force to defend yourself. If I copy your last post, and print it out with my name at the bottom, in what way have you been aggressed against? Plagiarism, although not socially welcome, is peaceful, and does not violate your property rights in any way.
      Let the mental gymnastics begin,

    2. Mr. Baker writes, “If there is something wrong with a false claim of authorship, then there must be a property right violation somewhere.”
      There is. Let’s say I sell you a book titled For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto and it has my byline on it. You take it home, excited to see what I’ve written. You remove the plastic from the cover. You’re so excited. You crack open the book. Ooo, that new book smell! You start reading…and, to your dismay, you immediately recognise the words. These are the same exact words that appear in For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray N. Rothbard! This isn’t a new book that just happens to have the same title as Rothbard’s, you quickly realise; no, it’s Rothbard’s work with my name slapped on it!
      Who has been defrauded? Was it Rothbard? No, it was clearly you, a customer who agreed to give me money for one thing (viz., a book I authored titled For a New Liberty: The Libertarian manifesto) but received another (viz., a book authored by Rothbard titled For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto). In short, you didn’t get what you paid for. Your money was taken from you under false pretenses, and thus your property rights were violated. Yes, there must be property rights somewhere in order for this false claim of ownership to violate natural law, and the property in question is your money.
      In order for justice to be served, I must pay restitution to you for my crime against you.
      (On the other hand, let’s say I took Rothbard’s For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, slapped my name on it, and gave it to you for free. I would say that that is immoral, but not criminal.)
      Alex Peak

  4. @ Stephen,
    Sorry to misspell your name above. I guess I’m used to interacting with Stephan Kinsella on IP.
    The links I have provided to “Intellectual Space” provide the requested argument in detail.
    Briefly, plagiarism is trespass upon the homesteaded productive capacity of another. It is like sneaking into someone’s factory at night, and running the assembly line. The trespasser might argue that he has done nothing wrong, since the factory owner is not using the factory at that time, and the trespasser has only manufactured new goods, not taken any of the owner’s existing goods. Find the fallacy in the trespasser’s argument, and you find the fallacy in the anti-IP argument.
    The doctrine of Intellectual Space makes intangible goods easier to conceptualize.
    Unfortunately this ZAP website takes a long time to moderate comments. I’d be happy to maintain the conversation at http://homesteadip.blogspot.com

    1. Mr. Baker, I understand how factories can be owned, and why it is unjust to trespass upon a person’s justly-acquired factory without the consent of the owner.
      I understand how factory equipment can be owned, and why it is unjust to use a person’s justly-acquired equipment without the consent of the owner.
      But how does “productive capacity” ever come to be owned?
      Sincerely yours,
      Alex Peak

      1. Baker’s first postulate:
        All economic goods are comprised of two factors – that which pre-exists in nature, and human effort.
        Baker’s second postulate:
        For all economic goods, the pre-existing natural element is infinite and inexhaustable, while the human effort is scarce and limited.
        Baker’s third postulate:
        The existence of a mass-produced consumer good is proof that a factory exists, and that the factory was used.
        A song is a mass-produced consumer good. Therefore a factory exists, and that factory was used to mass produce song copies.
        Productive capacity is synonymous with a factory. Like any factory, the productive capacity of a master song file is owned by the person who built it, according to the homestead principle.

  5. Mr. Baker, you write, “For all economic goods, the pre-existing natural element is infinite and inexhaustable [sic], while the human effort is scarce and limited.”
    In what sense are pre-existing natural elements “infinite” or “inexhaustible”? Are not pre-existing natural elements inherently scarce?
    You write, “A song is a mass-produced consumer good.”
    I have written songs that no one has ever heard, and others that only a few friends have heard. Are you saying that, by your definition, these things don’t count as “songs,” since no mass production was involved?
    Also, I’m not sure I agree that songs are consumer goods. When I think of consume, I think of using up. A power plant might consume a specific ton of coal. I might consume a specific apple. Even compact discs don’t last forever; eventually, they degrade. But how would I consume a song? “Greensleeves” has been around for centuries and millions of people have heard it. Yet, no matter how many times it’s ever been heard, and no matter how many people are listening to it at any given moment, the specific song never gets used up; the same cannot be said of coal, apples, or even compact discs. It would appear to me that coal, apples, and compact discs are consumer goods, while “Greensleeves” is not. Am I looking at this the wrong way?
    You write, “Therefore a factory exists, and that factory was used to mass produce song copies.”
    But what does it mean to produce song copies? You yourself wrote, “No matter how many copies of the song are made, there is still only one song.” Doesn’t this mean that when a digital copy of a song is made, nothing new has actually been produced? After all, there is still only one song, and whether I have one file of “Greensleeves” on my computer or two, it doesn’t seem I’ve “produced” anything by copying it. It would seem, therefore, that the only thing the compact disc factory is mass producing are compact discs that have “Greensleeves” on them, that the factory is not mass producing the song itself, in fact that nobody ever “mass produces” the song itself. Again, am I looking at this the wrong way?
    You write, “Like any factory, the productive capacity of a master song file is owned by the person who built it, according to the homestead principle.”
    I still don’t think this answers my original question, “how does ‘productive capacity’ ever come to be owned?” I interpret “productive capacity” to mean capacity to produce, and one person’s capacity to produce x doesn’t negate another person’s capacity to also produce x. If I can sow, then I have the capacity to knit socks; but having this capacity would not give me natural legal authority to prevent others from also knitting socks, would it? Likewise, a factory may have the capacity to produce compact discs with the song “Greensleeves” on them, but just because one factory has that capacity doesn’t mean that other factories lack that capacity. The fact that a given factory has that capacity would not give it the natural legal authority to prevent other factories that also have the capacity to produce compact discs with “Greensleeves” on them from enjoying said capacity, would it? If I make a digital copy of “Greensleeves,” I haven’t thereby diminished the productive capacity of anyone else to produce digital copies of “Greensleeves,” nor have I diminished the productive capacity of any factory, have I? Am I looking at this the wrong way?
    Sincerely yours,
    Alex Peak

    1. Mr. Peak,
      Nothing in the physical world is ever created or destroyed. All we do is rearrange the atoms. The mass of the universe is infinity. Even the mass of just the Earth is, for all intents and purposes, infinity. Here’s my article that addresses scarcity:
      You can write a song without mass-producing copies of the song, just as you can build a car from scratch without an assembly line for mass production. You are free to do that, but it is far more economically efficient to build a factory assembly line. That’s what Henry Ford figured out.
      You can also conceive of your unpublished song as an abandoned factory. It provides the productive capacity for you to mass produce copies, but for whatever reason you have chosen not to.
      “Consume” means “to use”. We are all consumers any time we use anything. “Consumer good” is any good used by consumers. “Producer good” or “Capital good” are those goods, like factories, that are not directly used by consumers, but are used in the chain of production to make consumer goods that are used by consumers.
      Making a copy of a song does mean that something has been produced: 1 new copy of the song has been produced. Now 1 more person can have a copy for their own use. This is just like making copies of any mass-produced widget on the assembly line.
      Productive capacity comes to be owned just as everything comes to be owned: according to the homestead principle.

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