Arnold Kling

Intellectual Property Overkill?

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
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David Reed asks,

Do we really need more "property rights" in "intellectual property"? That's the real question that we should be asking. In fact, we should be asking whether the conceptual basis of "intellectual property" is sound and defensible. Because unlike copyrights and patents, which are very clear and ancient, "intellectual property" is a new legal invention, a new metaphor, proposed by those who benefit from it, and not examined by the majority who might not.

He is responding to some aggressive legal proposals by the entertainment industry, including one which would allow industry vigilantes to hack individual computers in order to locate and disrupt violators of copyrights. I see this as a very ugly transition from a mass media era do a distributed media era. The mass media companies have the law on their side (or at least they have Congress in their pockets). Distributed media, where individual critics and fans play the filtering role once played by record companies or film distributors, has technology on its side. I am confident that the mass media companies will lose, but I think it will take a while for a stable economic model to emerge for a distributed media industry.

Discussion Question. What are the economic issues posed by the concept of intellectual property? Is strong protection of intellectual property as important for society as strong protection of private physical property?

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