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The logical fallacies of Mike Masnick: A series

I'm probably going to regret the title of this blog post, not because I'm afraid to say that Mike Masnick committed a logical fallacy, but because he commits logical fallacies so often that I should reserve this title for a SERIES of blog posts . . . 

[Note: Title edited]

Anyway, a few weeks ago I did a blog post on the House IP Subcommittee's second hearing of the new copyright review process, this one themed copyright and innovation.

My main point was that there was actually very little criticism of the copyright status quo during the hearing, but you can read that blog entry for yourself.

My blog post aroused the ire of Mike Masnick over at TechDirt, which they often do (and which frankly isn't hard to do). But the nature of Masnick's complaint about my post was truly amazing, as Masnick made really obvious logical fallacies in supposedly rebutting my points.

I responded to some tweets that were complaining that copyright is a "mechanism of control," which is a common complaint of the CopyLeft. I pointed out that, of course, copyright involves control, as ALL property rights involve some degree of control.

So here in a nutshell is Masnick's clever rebuttal to me. It goes like this:

  1. Giovanetti says copyright involves control.
  2. But the Constitution says copyright is to promote science and the useful arts.
  3. So copyright ISN'T about control after all.
  4. Giovanetti is an idiot or a shill, or both.

How very droll. Of course, I never said copyright is "about" control--I said it "involves" control. But don't look to Mike Masnick for logic or to accurately represent his opponent's views.

Masnick's art of practicing the bifurcation fallacy is truly stunning.

"You say copyright is about control, but I thought it was about creativity! You are inconsistent!"


"You say copyright is about control, but I thought it was to promote science and the arts! Get your story straight!" This is the bifurcation fallacy, though not particularly elegantly executed.

[Note: I should note that Masnick quotes Parker Higgins from EFF who makes exactly the same bifurcation fallacy AND manages to misrepresent Sandra Aistars at the same time.]

Look, Mike, try to follow along. There are GOALS, and there are MEANS, and GOALS are not the same things as MEANS. Promotion of science and the useful arts is the GOAL of the IP system. The question is HOW does copyright promote science and the useful arts? By incentivizing the creation and distribution of new works, that's how. And how does it do that? By making it possible for creators to PROFIT from their creations. And how do they profit from their creations? By making MONEY. And how do they make money? They enter into various kinds of CONTRACTS. And how do they enter into contracts? By first having the RIGHT TO CONTRACT for something, which means they have to OWN the thing before they can enter into a contract.

And it's the OWNERSHIP of the item that "involves control." You can't contract or license something unless you control it. Ownership is a beneficent form of control--specifically, the right to exclude. When you own something, you own the right to exclude someone from using or taking it. (This is real basic stuff.)

[The Founders didn't spell all this out in the Constitution, Mike, because they assumed their readers had enough sense to take certain very basic and elemental things for granted.]

Control is necessary in order to facilitate distribution WHILE STILL PROMOTING SCIENCE AND THE USEFUL ARTS. Any moron can hijack a tanker truck and give away gasoline for free. But you can't do that and still be promoting the refinement and distribution of gasoline. Theft of the item is incompatible with promoting its continued development. Theft of the item THWARTS further development of the item.

So any moron can steal a song or a movie and distribute it over the Internet. There's nothing clever or innovative about that. What's truly interesting is when you find a way to distribute something in a way that pleases a sufficient number of consumers while still encouraging new and continued creativity. That's called free enterprise, and the property right is the fundamental underlayment necessary in order to facilitate free enterprise.

That's called analysis, Mike. You have to think through things. You only get to dismiss arguments with false bifurcation when you've gotten so used to talking to slathering acolytes for so long that you lose the ability to argue logically.

It's as if Masnick was partway through thinking about my post and then the thought "Squirrel!" flashed through his mind.

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