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September 21, 2017

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So-called 'IP wars' reveal rigged 'competition'

Technology represents the proverbial double-edged sword within such a paradigm. On the one hand, in its relation to the do-it-yourself realm, technology has thrown wide potentialities of self-sufficiency and independence that few could have imagined, new ways to live and to thrive in a world outside of the state-corporate economic and social structure.

At the same time, the emergence of new industries and new technologies must be regarded as central in the evolution of the kind of state we know today, the reach and scope of authority seeming to lengthen and expand daily.

Discussing the international law framework around "intellectual property," specifically the TRIPS agreement, economist Donald G. Richards notes the ways that international IP rules "reflect the real and perceived interests of cross-national classes." Richards argues, as do market anarchists, that worldwide protection of patents and copyrights "facilitates the expansion of global capitalism while reinforcing the currently prevailing hierarchy of production and power relations."

On a fundamental level, patents and copyrights dictate the ways in which people are allowed to use their own tangible property, from pens and paper to scrap metal and computer chips. They thus represent the kinds of coercive, monopoly privileges that genuine free markets stand against in principle. Using the restrictive power of the state to limit competition raises the prices of our computers, automobiles, food and clothing — virtually all of the good and services we buy.

"Competition" today is no more than a clash between rich, monolithic global corporate titans who would rather use the legal system to ban competitors than actually compete. Competition between Samsung and Apple may be fierce enough in the courtroom, but what would happen in a real free market, one where no one was entitled to special privileges through IP?

Then the consumer might not be merely a consumer; she might just be an autonomous individual with more capacity for self-sufficiency than we can imagine in a today shackled to millions of pieces of paper housing corporate patents.

C4SS News Analyst David S. D'Amato is a market anarchist and an attorney with an LL.M. in International Law and Business. His aversion to superstition and all permutations of political authority manifests itself at

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