Libertarians believe in property rights in tangible goods. But why? As Kinsella notes, it is these goods’ scarcity — the fact that there can be conflict over these goods by multiple human actors. The very possibility of conflict over a resource renders it scarce, giving rise to the need for ethical rules to govern its use.
As libertarians recognize, following Locke, it is only the first occupier or user of such property that can be its natural owner. Only the first-occupier homesteading rule provides objective ownership in scarce resources.
The problem with IP rights is that the ideal objects protected by IP rights are not scarce; and, further, that such property rights are not, and cannot be, allocated in accordance with the firstoccupier homesteading rule.
Ideas are not scarce. If I invent a technique for harvesting cotton, your harvesting cotton in this way would not take away the technique from me. Your use does not exclude my use; we could both use my technique to harvest cotton. There is no economic scarcity, and no possibility of conflict over the use of a scarce resource. Thus, there is no need for exclusivity. Similarly, if you copy a book I have written, I still have the original (tangible) book, and I also still "have" the pattern of words that constitute the book. Thus, authored works are not scarce in the same sense that a piece of land or a car are scarce. Even Rand acknowledged that "intellectual property cannot be consumed."
By recognizing a right in an ideal object, one creates scarcity where none existed before. Only tangible, scarce resources are the possible object of interpersonal conflict, so it is only for them that property rules are applicable. Thus, patents and copyrights are unjustifiable monopolies granted by government legislation. It is not surprising that, as Palmer notes, "onopoly privilege and censorship lie at the historical root of patent and copyright."