Laissez-Faire Books was founded in 1972 when issues of intellectual property hadn’t been worked out in detail in the libertarian world. There was of course the Randian view, which took IP to the most absurd extremes. Then there was the Rothbardian view, which had a very strict view of what is and what is not property and because IP doesn’t pass this test, the Rothbardian perspective tended toward the open model.
LFB itself never questioned the statist conventions on this topic. In fact, it even went through a period in which its owner worked to send take down notices to sites for posting old books to which it claimed the rights. How well I recall my own disgust! LFB uses the state to stop the spread of libertarian ideas! That’s just incredible.
Well, Agora Financial took over the institution this year and it immediately became obvious that they were Kinsellaites on this question. While working at the Mises Institute, I had worked with the new LFB to do some co-publishing in the commons. So when I accepted the position as publisher and executive editor, I made it a condition that, wherever possible, we always publish into the commons.
Management readily agreed, and even wondered why I was making such a big deal out of this. After all, this is a gigantically successful company and they have learned that the most important way to sell a product is to market it as widely and broadly as possible. If by putting something in the commons, you stand to reach more people, isn’t this a great thing? Isn’t this what commerce is all about? And from a mission point of view, isn’t this what libertarian education is all about?
Indeed it is! I immediately felt that we would soon be running an important experiment: a large scale publisher in the world of commerce would soon be publishing with Creative Commons and eschewing copyright in every way. This is a massive step for the libertarian world and even for the world of publishing in general.
why I insisted on authentic songs, what is and is not property, software is culture, the difference between Share Alike (copyleft) and other Creative Commons licenses, why I paid to legally license the old songs, how noncommercial copyright infringement is still illegal, legal costs, benefits of audience sharing & decentralized distribution, the Sita Sings the Blues Merchandise Empire (sitasingstheblues.com/store), open-licensed merch, audience goodwill, how fans support artists, rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods, the Creator Endorsed Mark, migrating Flash files to open formats, gift income, commerce without monopolies, why I encourage legal sharing, and more!
It is quite impressive to see an artist like this in front of this audience explaining how rivalrous goods are property and nonrivalrous goods are not, and how free distribution of the latter can be used to sell the former.
As my TLS co-blogger Dick Clark observed to me,
HOPE is a pretty big deal. That was the same con where Adrian Lamo got booed for ratting out Bradley Manning.
A couple of days ago David mentioned that the Mises Institute providing its entire online media and literature library as a set of free torrents can be seen as part of a distributed or grassroots intellectual guerrilla resistance against the state.
This is just one aspect of the Mises Institute’s effort to be completely open source. All of the intellectual eggs of the Austro-Libertarian movement are no longer being kept in one basket. The more people who seed those torrents, the easier the burden on the Mises Institute. But more importantly, should statist or natural disaster strike, the world won’t lose the vast wealth of information hosted by the Mises Institute. Indeed, not only will the information not be lost, but there will be no downtime in its worldwide online distribution. Should states decide to actively move against us, they’ll be in for one hell of a game of ‘whack-a-mole’. They’ll face the same problems the RIAA, Hollywood, and others are facing in their War on Piracy Copying.
Austro-Libertarianism has gone viral, folks.
All this is to set the context for another example of open source anti-state resistance that I recently discovered.
WordPress is an open source website and blogging platform. It’s an easy to use, yet powerful, tool for getting our ideas online where people around the world can access them. It’s free, as in speech and beer. This site is powered by it. My site is powered by it. The Mises Institute’s site is powered by it.
But some countries like China and Australia censor the internet, blocking access to unapproved sites like YouTube and Twitter, filtering or blocking or shutting down or otherwise regulating websites and blogs.
There are ways to get around this censorship, however. Here’s one: The good folks at Global Voices Advocacy, an organization defending free speech online, have heroically created a guide to mirroring a censored WordPress blog. It’s covered by a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, just like The Libertarian Standard. Get it. Share it. Even if you don’t need it yet, someday you might. Others already do. In the spirit of the Mises Institute’s torrented online library, we’re hosting the guide here as well.