IP and libertarianism are politically incompatible because of the incredible policing of individuals that is necessary to monitor the ‘crime’ of sharing ideas and expression. The policing would be necessary whether or not the copyright was contractual or state-enforced. If nothing else, the immense flow of information over the Internet means that more invasive methods are being and will be used in the name of IP protection.
And, now, 3D printers have the potential for transforming the flow of goods in much the same way as the Internet did for information. The downloading and creation of duplicate goods may become as convenient as the downloading of music is currently. This potential would devastate patents, of course. Again, the only way to protect patents would be to monitor, restrict or outright criminalize an individual’s use of 3D printers.
At every turn, as technology offers greater freedom and prosperity, IP reaches out to snatch it away…if not through controlling the technology, then by controlling individuals.
For an action to be politically and legally permissible in a libertarian framework, it must include what the philosopher Robert Nozick called “no morally impermissible” steps. With regard to IP, the protection of one person’s rights cannot involve the violation of another’s. This principle applies whether natural-rights or contractual IP is being argued. I now believe that any form of IP would inherently contain morally impermissible steps.