Intellectual property rights

The protection of intellectual property rights in one of the foundations of our economy and is responsible for all the modern gadgets we use including the computers used in writing and reading this weblog.

Yes, in that property rights are one of the major ways in which we restrict competition in our economy.

But we might be better off if we didn’t protect intellectual property.

Here’s an article which claims Germany was able to quickly industrialize and catch up to the British because that country was slow in enacting copyright legislation.

I have read that during the British industrial revolution patent legislation was loosely enforced if at all and  there was  considerable circulation of ideas.  Some of the major inventors did not get rich and some died poor.

If the Romans had had copyright we would not have the Bible and if the Elizabethans had had copyright we would not have Shakespeare. It may be that a lot of creative people are motivated by things other than money.

If we didn’t have patent and copyright we might now be using more advanced and much cheaper computers, some of the world’s most difficult diseases might have been dealt with and the Olympics would probably a lot less commercial.

On the other hand, British Columbia coastal natives are quite possessive of their dances and songs.  While watching some visiting dancers I  asked the lady who led her band’s dancing if she was noting some of the steps to incorporate into her own dancing. She was somewhat emphatic in telling me she couldn’t do that because the dance belonged to those dancers and couldn’t be used without permission.  That was a part of their culture.

One of the features of perfect competition is that there must be no barriers to people getting into a field.  If we really wanted a competitive market economy we would abolish patent and copyright legislation.


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