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Table of Contents

1 Introduction

Concepts such as intellectual property have their moments. At first glance, it seems completely rational; if a man has devoted substantial effort and thought to an intellectual work, he ought to be the one to enjoy the fruits of that work. However, when one examines the concept more closely, it is easily seen that it can hold no place in a rightly constituted society, least of all one in which digital technology has made the free exchange of information so easy, not to mention completely unavoidable.

Regardless of one's opinions on intellectual property, however, Goretti Publications answers a need not merely for the availability of books, but their availability in high-quality, professionally-typeset form. A brief exposition of our opinions on both intellectual property and why Goretti Publications is necessary regardless of those opinions follows, and finally an explanation of our publishing practices is offered.

2 Intellectual Property in General

Since intellectual property is merely a species of property, defining it in particular must wait until we have defined property in general. Property is the possession of a claim to use or to the fruits of a tangible object. For example, many people possess what is called "real" property, or property in land. This means that they have the right to use this property in various ways. For example, they might have the right to farm the land; if they lease it out, they might have the right to a tenth of the crop of their tenant. There is also a type of property known as "chattel" or "personal" property, that is, property in goods other than land. A man might own a pair of shoes, for example; with that comes the right to wear the shoes, to tear them apart and use the leather for something else, but not the right to use the laces to strangle someone else. Property carries rights to a thing, but it is not an absolute right. It is limited, as always, by its purpose; that purpose may be narrow, as for shoes, or extremely broad, as for land. But one cannot use the shoes to beat a man to death, nor the land to corrupt the land of one's neighbors.

Extending from this concept of property is what we often call "intellectual" property, or property in non-tangible goods. Generally this will be some work of art, such as a painting or a poem, or some kind of useful invention, such as a new type of engine or the ubiquitous (yet somehow never actually realized) better mouse trap. As in tangible property, types of intellectual property have different names. The property in a painting or a book is referred to as a "copyright"; the property in a better mouse trap is called a "patent." They are both, however, simply property: they are claims to use in a good, though in this case an intangible rather than a tangible good.

What use in particular is claimed in, for example, a copyright? It is not the right to read the work, since a book is generally useless if no one else ever reads it. The name of the property gives a clue: it is the right to copy. Since the holder of the copyright controls the right to copy the work (though often he contracts that right out in exchange for a percentage of sales, called "royalties"), he is able to reap profits from his work which would not otherwise be available to him if the work could be copied by anyone. Similarly, a patent holder has the right to produce whatever product he has patented. Generally, such rights last a limited amount of time; in the case of copyrights that period is so long that it might as well be considered indefinite.

It is easy to see, however, that intellectual property is not of the same nature as tangible property. Specifically, intellectual goods are not limited in the same way as material goods. If a man owns a pair of shoes, only he can wear those shoes; no one else can reap the benefits of those shoes as long as he is doing so. If a man owns a book, however, many can reap the benefits of that book without depriving the original owner of its benefits. Without the copyright, however, the writer of the book will not be able to profit as much from his work, even though the book itself is doing just as much good (perhaps more, because of its increased distribution through free copying) as it would under his copyright. The owner of the shoes must have the exclusive right to use those shoes; otherwise he can get no benefit from them. But the author of the book is in a different situation; he can still benefit from the book (that is, from the ideas it contains) whether he possesses a copyright or not. Clearly, intellectual property is different in kind from tangible property, not merely intellectually distinguished like land and chattel.

Many justifications have been offered for granting public recognition to intellectual property rights, but these justifications boil down to two: the natural law theory and the utilitarian theory. Each will be addressed in its turn.

2.1 The Natural Law Theory

The first theory is the natural law theory, which owes its existence to the political and economic philosophy of John Locke. Locke held that man acquires property not from society or need, but from his own actions.

Essentially, Locke held that any given material good is unowned by nature. We will take, for this example, that piece of land so loved by law students throughout the common-law world, Blackacre. On an island to which no one has ever been, Blackacre has never been touched but by deer, squirrels, and sugar maples. It is completely virgin. The discoverer of this island (call him Locke) finds Blackacre and decides to farm it. He clears a few acres, removes those stumps he can, plows them, plants them, hoes them, and finally harvests them in the fall. By these simple acts alone, according to Locke's natural law theory, Locke has acquired property in the land.

Locke holds it as indisputable that he has property in his own labor. It is something that he does; no one else has control over it. Therefore, it is his property. The land, of course, was no one's, since we took that as a given in our example. So by working Blackacre, Locke has mixed his own labor, which he owns, with the unowned land. This means that the land is now his by natural right. Property is acquired by mixing labor with raw materials. Intellectual property is acquired in the same way. Locke has mixed his labor of expression in with the raw materials of, say, his theory of the senses. That expression, then, is really his and no one else's. He has acquired property in that intangible.

This theory, however, does not stand up to rational examination. In the first place, of course, Locke's theory of natural law is itself open to debate; that, however, is not the subject of this essay. Even if one accepts all of Locke's premises, however, his justification of intellectual property seems at best contrived. Owning one's labor, for example, seems like equivocation, and for that matter assumes that an intangible can be rightly owned. For another, has Locke really "mixed his labor" with anything when he writes a book about the senses? To be sure, he has changed the quality of the tangible goods of this particular book; no one questions that. But has he really changed the quality of anything otherwise? Has his mixing of his labor with this particular set of sheets of papers and pots of ink (his original manuscript) altered any other material objects, particular that paper and ink that would go into a new copy made by another person? Has the nature of the senses been in any way altered by him writing about his idea of it? Locke's theory, in the end, does not hold water. However, it is not the dominant theory among moderns; that dubious honor is left to the utilitarians.

2.2 The Utilitarian Theory

The utilitarian theory is fairly standard, at least as far as utilitarian theories go. Indeed, this is the justification for intellectual property offered by the United States Constitution, which states that, in order to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," Congress shall be permitted to grant "for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (U.S. Const. Art. I sect. 8 cl. 8.) This clause expresses the utilitarian justification for intellectual property rather admirably: if such an exclusive right is not offered, then there will be no incentive for authors and inventors to ply their trades, and the nation will be mired in a dearth of art and science. Such an incentive is offered by extending to them the right to use their particular product to the exclusion of everybody else for a certain time, in the hopes that they will thereupon make oodles of money and thus grant further incentive to other writers and inventors.

One must question, however, whether copyrights are the only, or even the best, way of encouraging the "useful Arts." In the first place, intellectual property was first conceived only in the fifteenth century (see Dane Weber, A Critique of Intellectual Property Rights). Is it really fair to say that prior to that time there was no incentive for authors or inventors to engage in their trades? Before copyright, there was Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante; afterwards, there was William Faulkner and the beat poets. Can anyone genuinely argue that copyright has encouraged the production of decent literature? It has certainly increased the volume (though the modern ease of printing and near-total literacy rates may be more responsible for that than copyrights), but will anyone really argue that it has increased the quality?

The argument is not ended so quickly with regard to patents, though those are not our main subject matter anyway. There has surely been a great deal of progress in the sciences since the advent of patents. However, it is overly hasty to assign that advance to the work of patents. The industrial revolution itself would arguably have produced the same advances even without patents, since the monetary incentive exists with or without an exclusive right to the invention. Furthermore, some of the most revolutionary advances (three-field farming, for example) were made with no monetary incentive, but only the desire to increase one's crop and thereby one's family's and village's security. So the argument that patents have unquestionably increased the progress of the "useful Arts" is, at best, overly hasty.

2.3 Conclusion

Both theories, then, which justify intellectual property either fail completely or do not make an adequate showing to justify the deprivation of rights in many excellent writings and useful inventions for almost the entire population. The question remains, however, how to adequately protect writers and inventors without these legal safeguards. How can one ensure that a writer is able to make a living, that his reputation will be protected, if he does not have the legal weapon of his copyright to wield?

3 A Good System of Intellectual Goods

Intellectual property is so thoroughly ingrained into our culture that contemplating a world without it can be extremely difficult. How would a writer support himself without a copyright on his works? What is to stop others from simply copying his works and putting their own names on them, thereby reaping the fruits of his labor for themselves? These are two very separate difficulties and require two separate answers.

Protection from plagiarism is not a problem for the society which denies property rights in intellectual goods. Preventing it is simple: make and enforce laws against plagiarism. Copyrights are not really for the purpose of preventing plagiarism; rather, they are intended to ensure that the author reaps the primary monetary profit from his works. The above critique of intellectual property in no way countenances plagiarism. This question is not difficult to answer at all.

As for ensuring that authors are able to support themselves while practicing their craft, there are surely means short of providing them the exclusive right to dessimate their work which would suffice. For musicians, of course, the solution is obvious. Only those musicians are capable of performing their work as it ought to be performed, and fans will desire to hear them play it and no one else. Therefore, musicians can easily support themselves by giving live concerts, a fantastically rich source of revenue even in the intellectual property milieu. Authors, however, do not have such an evident source of support; live readings do not tend to draw the crowds that musical concerts do.

Prior to the establishment of intellectual property, most authors supported themselves by one of several means. Scholarly writers, then as now, gained their livelihood by attaching themselves to a certain institution, which paid their way in exchange for the reputation that it would gain through employing such a prominent scholar. Usually they also performed other tasks, such as teaching. Indeed, it is precisely this sort of arrangement that gave rise to the first universities, including the first of all, Paris. There is no reason why this arrangement, in conjunction with strict and effective plagiarism laws, could not be just as effective today. Indeed, scholars effectively support themselves under this arrangement even now, since intellectual works (on such exciting topics as "Byzantine Perspectives on the Turkish Conquest in Light of the Latin Empire of the Fourth Crusade") do not generally draw much in the way of royalties.

In the modern day, when fictional literature (poetry and the like) has drawn so much scholarly attention, oftentimes authors of such material could support themselves in the same way. English departments at universities even now boast of employing some great contemporary novelist or poet. Certainly the volume of such literature that our society now produces could not be supported by such means, but a good bit of it, and oftentimes the very best of it, could easily be so sustained.

Apart from that, authors can support themselves in a very innovative manner: the same way everybody else does. They could work for a living. Such a lifestyle is not at all preventive of the production of great literature; Dante, for example, produced the gem of medieval literature, The Divine Comedy, while otherwise employed in a great many pursuits. Chaucer, too, worked on other matters while writing such works as The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Creseyde. Furthermore, live performances should not be ruled out too hastily; the epic poets who are responsible for Beowulf, La Chanson de Roland, La Poema del Cid, Homer's great works The Iliad and The Odyssey, and others all supported themselves by reciting their epics before life audiences. Certainly the wealthy lifestyles of some modern authors could not be sustained in such a system. But society need not fear literate starvation. Good artists in all ages practice their art not for money, but for art; reducing the monetary incentive will expunge the substandard rather than the great.

Other ways than these doubtlessly exist, and methods by which the state can encourage the production of great art and literature short of granting an exclusive right to it can certainly be discussed. For the purposes of these brief paper it will suffice to note that a dearth of great art would not at all ensue upon the removal of intellectual property rights. More likely the production of sham and lousy "art" would be curtailed, while the great artists of real talent would continue to produce their works for the sake of their works, regardless of their own profit.

4 Goretti Publications and Intellectual Goods

Goretti Publications is not in favor of violating the legal rights of authors, even though we think that these legal rights are fictions and ought to be abolished. Therefore, we do not publish, nor do we accept for publication any work which lies under the protection of intellectual property laws. The laws of the state, unless they are positively against the laws of God or of nature, must be obeyed, and Goretti Publications fully submits itself to them.

However, whether intellectual property rights remain forever or are abolished tomorrow, there is a great need for the work which Goretti Publications is doing and hopes to continue to do. What this need is and why it exists is simply and briefly explained.

4.1 Goretti Publications is Necessary Regardless of the Existence of Intellectual Property Rights

Catholicism today finds itself in a situation almost unique to its history. Catholics are widely dispersed and often without the benefit of good and orthodox clergy. They therefore rely a great deal on good, solid Catholic writings to teach them the faith and guide them in their relations with others. However, we perceived that good Catholic literature is far too sparsely distributed for the good of the Catholic world. In this great Catholic diaspora in which so many of the faithful find themselves in this dark and decaying age, the ancient supports of a faithful Christian community and reliably orthodox clergy are often partly or even completely absent. Catholics often, therefore, find themselves confronting arguments or problems about which they know nothing and have no reliable recourse for assistance beyond the omnipresent remedies of prayer and fasting. What they require are, of course, the restoration of Catholic community and the cleansing of the heirarchy; until this is done the Catholic world will never be healed. Failing that, however, they require first and foremost books, books and pamphlets for themselves and others to help them solve their own problems and to convert their neighbors to Christ.

Most Catholic publishers, however, charge for their publications, either so accustomed to the present system of publishing that they never considered an alternate method or so bound by monetary necessity that putting their considerations into action is impossible. Therefore, Goretti Publications hopes to provide authentic and orthodox Catholic literature in order to supply for this need which is so conspicuously unfulfilled in our present age. We beg the blessing of God on this, our endeavor.

It is easily seen that this need exists regardless of intellectual property rights. Whether books are copyrighted or not, Catholics scattered in such small numbers across all lands still require good Catholic literature and are still unable to get it unless they have significant funds to expend. With Goretti Publications, Catholics can obtain these works regardless of their financial situation. All they need is the now-common computer with the now-common connection to the Internet; a simple printer will even enable them to print pamphlets and other literature for passing out to others, Catholic and non-Catholic, on a variety of pertinent topics. Therefore, even those who disagree with the above assessment of intellectual property would do well to utilize and assist this project, at the same time fulfilling and helping it to fulfil its goals.

4.2 The Pursuit of Goretti Publications's Goal

Goretti Publications seeks to fulfil these ends by two primary means. The first is already in effect, and involves taking advantage of modern technology, in the best tradition of St. Maximilian Kolbe, to more widely disseminate authentically Catholic literature to a sick and dying world. All of Goretti Publications's works are freely available on the Internet in a wide variety of file formats, at least one of which should suit the needs of all those who may seek to read them.

This end is accomplished by the use of the great typesetting and publishing technology made available free of charge by Donald Knuth, known as TeX (pronounced "tech"). This free and powerful typesetting system is able to put together professionally typeset texts in any PostScript font, providing typesetting which is completely beyond the order of most popular word-processors and even beyond the capabilities of some better ones. TeX, in combination with its most popular set of macros, LaTeX (pronounced "lay-tech" or "la-tech"), is capable of producing texts typeset beyond the wildest imaginations of word-processing technology. Furthermore, this system operates on a plain-text file which is authored in any quality text editor, making the files small enough to be easily stored and transferred. Furthermore, a huge quantity of macros is available to supplement TeX and LaTeX, enabling them to produce any kind of typeset text desirable. They will even produce text typeset according to the standards of other languages, such as French and German in the Latin alphabet and Russian and Ukrainian in the Cyrillic. Other languages and alphabets are, of course, available, almost without limitation. Their hyphenation algorithms are without equal and their capabilities powerful beyond compare. Because these technologies were made available free of charge (they and their many macros, along with excellent tutorials detailing their use, can be downloaded at the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network), Goretti Publications is able to employ them to produce high-quality texts available for download on the Internet in several file formats. All of our works, whatever their format, were produced with these tools; even the HTML documents available (besides the website itself) were written in LaTeX and translated into HTML.

The second prong is not yet active, but will be equally important in the years to come. Goretti Publications hopes to provide its works also on paper, for a fee controlled by the cost of production. They will not be the cheap, throwaway bindings of modern binderies, but quality bindings of acid-free, long-lasting paper that will endure for hundreds of years. In this way, Catholic families can build libraries of quality Catholic works which will not grow old and wither away, but last for generations. Funding does not yet permit this project to go into effect, but Goretti Publications will not cease until it has made this goal into a reality.

Through Goretti Publications's efforts, however, every effort has been made to grant proper credit to all authors. This is particularly important given Goretti Publications's position on intellectual property, for a failure on this score would equate in many minds an opposition to intellectual property as a disrespect for a work's legitimate authors. Consequently, in all the works it publishes Goretti Publications insists upon some form of proper and complete citation. While it does not demand any given system of citation, it does insist that some coherent and consistent system be used. By default, Goretti Publications uses The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass'n et al. eds., 17th ed. 2000).

5 Conclusion

Intellectual property has eviscerated the Catholic world, depriving it of the quality Catholic literature that it needs now more than ever in our age of corruption and dispair. Goretti Publications seeks to solve that problem by publishing quality Catholic works and making them available for free through the means of digital data exchange. Eventually, it will also produce high-quality bindings of these works in order to provide Catholic families with libraries that can be passed down for generations. This project is much needed in the world, and deserves the support of every believing Catholic.


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