What is, according to ethical and moral philosophy, the right position in Taylor Swift’s rerecording of her albums? Firstly, I don’t believe in capitalism nearly enough to believe property rights are that fundamental. I could google the superstar’s net worth but I can comfortably say that it is way more than I believe a human can morally possess. She wants the “rights” to these masters but those “rights” are imaginary. They are a legal fiction. The only real difference was she no longer got royalties from them but at her level of wealth, royalties are meaningless numbers that in no way affect her standard of living. What Taylor Swift really wanted was the state, itself a made-up institution, recognizing her, via a 17th century philosophical invention, as the rightful proprietress of audio.
Fundamentally, this is about whether the state’s authority is morally, in philosophical jargon, essential. I don’t believe it is. The state might be a useful institution but no particular state has divine right or an inherrent right to exist. Laws are moral fictions that bind nobody merely by existing. As said before, my political sympathies lie in the direction of Emma Goldman and my being a social democrat is a proximate, not ultimate, political teleology. I don’t believe in the moral authority of the state and legal statutes have no moral value and should only be obeyed out of rational fear if they don’t already align with normative moral or ethical protocols.
I loathe with the blackest contempt the Hobbesian Leviathan of a Weberian bureaucracy that has come to dominate with absolute power human life over the past few centuries. An institution that, over a slight and supposed offense, casts one to an internment camp and then brands one for life to keep one in poverty. I hate the existence of the modern state with a burning and seething passion.
Taylor Swift has as much authority under Almighty God to claim those masters as her own as the feeble bureaucracy that she wants to do that. The deeds to the property are abstract and worthless paragraphs of legalese whose only ostensibly material effect is to shift imaginary money that will never be anything more than binary on silicon from one multimillionaire who will never notice it to another multimillionaire who will never notice it.
In terms of reducing human suffering or increasing human welfare, does this mean anything? No. We’re in the sixth mass exinction, billions live in poverty, fascism is rising across the globe, and I don’t think a single piece of the intellectual property in question has attempted to uplift people like desperate refugees or sympathize or empathize with anyone outside of Western affluent and attractive demographics. It’s all kayfabe in the stratosphere about property rights and money that both are fictional social constructs.