if copyright was abolished in Libertarian Paradise, it could be quickly replaced by an equivalent contractual scheme whereby major conglomerates require you to enter into an agreement before accessing their products, with penalties for breaking the agreement.

anyone who wished to access Star Wars, Pokemon, Harry Potter, or any other popular franchise would need to agree to copyright or find someone willing to break it, and experience suggests that most people would go along with it.


To start with, I will say that I agree with the general gist of your post. However, I suspect we would still end up with a licensing scheme much different from current IP law.

Imagine going into a store to buy a CD with software (I know, so nineties, I work with what I know) and at the cashier, before paying, you’re handed a 200-page contract (That is, the EULA plus all currently applicable IP law) that you must (a) read and (b) agree to before they will take your money.

A couple of things would happen

1) Some people would not purchase the software

2) Others would purchase equivalent but license-free software from your competition

3) In an effort to capture some of that market, publishers would create an extremely streamlined contract; the main difference – looking at what has happened in other fields – would generally be that a lot of cruft would get cut out.

3A) The hard-to-enforce cruft (E.g. “not allowed to resell”) would be cut out because: If the state subsidizes your enforcement you might as well have as many terms as possible and put the burden on the customer – they cannot really go to a competitor because that competitor will have the same burdens because it is law. If you have to pay for your own enforcement, you might as well cut it out – the contract will be less confusing to your customer and that might give you a leg up over the competition.

3B) The hard-to-understand cruft would also be cut. E.g. “Not allowed to modify this software” You  see this in e.g. the CC license – in an effort to make people use that license, it is very easy to understand. A private court of arbitration could create an equivalent Easy To Understand IP Contract, a service they do not provide today because they’re in direct competition with the government enforcement monopoly.

You’d end up with licenses that individual people could make educated decisions about. You’re absolutely right that people would still agree to these contracts, but I expect the contracts to be much better. And it is easier to explain to the customer “you’re not allowed to sell or give away copies of this because we needs to get paid” than “you aree allowed to create copies of this for backup purposes only unless we have used copy-protection, unless that copy protection is easily automatically circumvented by standard software in which case it doesn’t count” which is the current state.

I expect that a proliferation of licenses would quickly congeal together into a single conglomerate, which you could opt into once via an easy process.

Then you really would just walk into the store, pay your money, and walk out.

People negotiating hundreds of little contracts on an individual basis seems much less likely than the convenience of a standardised option, much in the same way as you would expect people to standardise on a small number of currencies and other common standards.

Single Conglomerate: I don’t think so.

Standards exist, and I bet major IP holders would switfly create a Standards Body for IP contracts, but, crucially, it would not be the monolith of the law.

You probably saw my cell-phone-chargers piece the other day and this is the same: The IP equivalent of the standard USB charger would have competition from the IP equivalent of the Lightning connector which is so much better.

Cell phone subscription contracts all look alike because they are all about cell phones, but they do not look entirely alike, because needs differ. Despite the fact that probably a literal billion of people have signed a cell phone contract, they have not become one monolithic and identical contract.

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