For many years, I held a strong position against the copyright based on the effects of enforcing copyright on freedom of speach in the internet.

However, recently I read Rothbard's Man, Economy, State, where he makes following point: when you purchase a work with a statement saying "copyright", you agree not to copy the work without the prior authorization by the copyright owner, and on free market copyright violations would be prosecuted as contract violations.

This strikes me as a really strong point for the protection of the copyright.

Now I'm looking to hear some really strong arguments against copyright, preferably based on principles of free market and Austrian economics

  • $\begingroup$ I don't see why you shouldn't still hold that same position. Just because it could be a contract violation, contractual terms can be contrary to the law, doesn't make it any less efficient if copyright is violated. But if you're interested in such arguments have a look at Kinsella's argument. You can find it on mises.org or Boldrin & Levine's against Intellectual Monopoly. This is webbed online. $\endgroup$
    – Toby
    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ Without copyright protection independent authors basically don't get paid. $\endgroup$
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 1, 2017 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @HotLicks while I'm still looking for a way to negate it, Rothbard's argument is the strongest argument in this area that I've encountered so far. And as far as I'm concerned, logical self-consistency arguments (like, copyright being valid contract compatible with free market) beat utilitarian arguments (someone gets or doesn't get paid) every time $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2017 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ -1 This has nothing to do with economics, it is about religious exegesis within some crank ideology. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2018 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


Copyright as a private contract is an entirely different thing than the concept of "intellectual property". While it is difficult to quote a single, unified view on the issue, I would think most Austrians reject "intellectual property" for the following two reasons: 1. the concept is defined and enforced by a state authority; 2. Austrians do not consider a concept or an idea itself as property.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you point to any particular writings or authors on this? Thanks. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2018 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ There has been a good summary talk of this issue at the 2017 Ludwig von Mises conference in Germany by Prof. David Duerr which also mentions those two points I made: youtube.com/watch?v=r2L4w_jH8FE However, as this is in German language, I shall try to find some English reference. Seem to recall that Rothbard's Ethics of Liberty touches on the topic as well. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2018 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. It’s best to work the extra information into the question. Comment threads can be deleted by moderators if they turn into arguments, $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2018 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I understand from what I read, Austrians reject "intellectual property" because intellectual products are not properties. Intellectual products do not have scarcity. If I copy an idea from you, you still have the same idea even after I copy it. It doesn't violate your right of using the idea you created. The action of using intellectual products such as technological innovations is not exclusive. Sharing innovative ideas and knowledge can create more ideas. Therefore you cannot define property right with intellectual products. $\endgroup$
    – Valac
    Oct 28, 2019 at 15:56

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