These selections from the “Property in Ideas” debate, taken from the pages of Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty (1890–1891), include provocative essays on property, anarchy, equal liberty and copyright from some of the leading individualist Anarchists of the 19th century. Includes articles by Benjamin Tucker, Victor Yarros, J. William Lloyd, Tak Kak, A. H. Simpson, John Beverley Robinson, and William Hanson.
“My understanding of my environment is my idea of it. … Everything that I understand I discover, just as much as the first man who understood it and discovered it… . I must discover it for myself. My understanding of another’s idea, as before shown, is not his idea, but my own, and my discovery of his discovery is original discovery so far as I am concerned, no matter how many thousand times discovered by others before. So, if original discovery gives exclusive right to copy, very well, all discovery is original; all understanding is original discovery for the individual making it, and beyond the individual we, as egoistic Anarchists, have no need to go… .
“Do I, then, deny copyright? Yes and no. I deny false, legal copyright, which is the privilege of the first man who exercises his faculties in discovery or production to forbid others to imitate without permission. This is really not copyright, but the invasion of true copyright, which is the inalienable right of every man to copy whatever he pleases if he can, a part of that complete natural liberty of the inoffensive for which we Anarchists persistently stand. That there is no offence in copying is proved by the simple fact that, even if I think a thought similar to the thought of my fellow, he is not thereby at all prevented from thinking it; if he copies my hoe, he does not by so doing take away my hoe, or prevent my using it, or making as many as I please like it. This consideration alone is allsufficient to make true Anarchists endorse free copyright, inasmuch as all action not invasive is truly free and justifiable.
“Legal copyright, patent-right, is only one form of that hydra headed monopoly which is reducing us all to slavery. This is the true copyright, my right and your right to copy and reproduce everything our senses comprehend; anything less than this stops human growth and blocks the wheels of progress. If I am free to copy all men’s thoughts and deeds, I am a man among men; if I may do freely only that which I am first to do, I am a pauper or a slave… .” — J. William Lloyd, “Copyright”