Matt Yglesias writes:
A lot of our politics is about symbolism. And symbolically intellectual property represents itself in the contemporary United States as a kind of property—it’s right there in the name. But it’s better thought of as a kind of regulation. Patents and copyrights are modeled, economically, the same as you would model any state-created monopoly.
I think the idea that intellectual property is property is too entrenched, at this point, for this to be an effective rhetorical strategy. Furthermore, rhetoric aside, philosophically the real breakthrough would be for people to realize that defending property rights is not tantamount to defending freedom. What strong IP protection generates is not a free market but something more like information feudalism: a market-unfriendly clusterfuck of fiefdoms and inescapably inefficient lord-vassal terms-of-service arrangements that any friend of freedom, in any ordinary sense, ought to look upon with disgust. The reason why libertarian rhetoric – defend property rights! – can underwrite feudalism, of all things, is that a certain sort of libertarianism, i.e. so-called propertarianism, really just plain is a form of feudalism. I’ve made the case at length.
I don’t see much hope of making a snappy rhetorical case that would break the unhealthy property = freedom link. But I think it might actually be possible to sidestep it by coming up with something like ‘information feudalism’ or ‘cyberfeudalism’ as a catchy term for IP rent-seeking or patent trolling. (Of course, ‘rent-seeking’ and ‘patent trolling’ are already pretty snappy.) To put the point another way, lots of folks are so averse to ‘government regulation’ that you will never get them to trade ‘private property’ talk for ‘regulation’ talk, as Yglesias suggests. But really what these folks are operating with is a kind of centralized = lots of regulation; decentralized = deregulated mental shortcut. The advantage of ‘feudalism’ would be to break that by making vivid the obvious possibility that decentralized stuff can still be too highly regulated, in effect.
UPDATE: turns out someone wrote the book already. Or at least picked a great title already.