List of ways intellectual property harms security

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Making knowledge subject to property regimes (copyright, patent, etc.) decreases security and encourages conflict at levels from the individual to global. Conversely, treating knowledge as a commons reduces the scope of potential conflict and encourages cooperation, and does not allow “securing” intellectual property (IP) to crowd out securing freedom, real property, and global peace.

This long list attempts to enumerate the ways intellectual property harms security. Additions, references, and especially critiques wanted!


IP might contribute to the creation of a “highly engineered environment” in which the addictive “ironic freedom” of distraction that feels like action both disrupts the flow of both work and wandering by increasing the rewards for creating addictive material and for sopping up all available attention.

###Arms race

By encouraging non-cooperation and winner take all outcomes, IP might increase the probability of dangerous technologies developed in secret without understanding of risk or planning ahead for defense.


IP encourages internet centralization, providing big targets for states and criminals and reducing the resilience of the network.


Criminalization of IP violations drastically decreases the security of people caught up in the system and further overburdens the legal and criminal justice systems, diminishing their ability to secure life, real property, and peace.


When IP protection rises on the policy agenda, leaders are distracted from pressing issues of global governance and existential threat.


Digital Restrictions Management in attempting to secure IP from computer users open up those users to security risks, sometimes intentionally.


Having to pay effectively head taxes to IP owners in order to remain alive and competitive will result in abhorrent arrangements.


Subjecting plant science to property regimes encourages treating food as a weapon, abetting conflict directly (see nationalism) and indirectly (food crises correlate with conflict).


Inequality is also linked to conflict, and IP directly increases inequality globally and within jurisdictions by concentrating wealth and control in the hands of IP owners.

###Global malgovernance

Treating knowledge as property has led to distorting trade agreements in which governments agree to facilitate coercive arrangements across borders rather than agreeing to refrain from restraining voluntary arrangements. It also curtails the potential for global cooperation on public goods problems, both the production of knowledge and problems requiring such. Poor global governance is itself a tremendous security risk (inadequate capacity to address both human and natural disasters) and IP is one of many challenges in the way of good global governance, one that could most easily be jettisoned.


IP owners (e.g., pharma) have a stake in covering up harmful effects from knowledge they collect monopoly rents on.


Treating knowledge as property makes the most important resource of the modern economy the subject of trade wars (see end), increasing the risk of shooting wars.


IP owners have more incentive and ability to enforce planned obsolescence, harming ecological sustainability and thus both directly and indirectly increasing risk.


“Security through obscurity” is a worst practice that abets insecurity and favors criminals, but it is the standard practice for proprietary software; and not only for software running on a personal computer, server, or phone, but for software increasingly running medical devices, vehicles, infrastructure, and serving as the operations of governments. The security risks are not only from criminals, but from the state, and from algorithmic discrimination, lack of trust, and from proprietary vendors holding up crucial functions.


Subjecting knowledge to property regimes creates a niche for pirates, some beneficent knowledge sharers, but many scammers and sharers of malware.