Wednesday, August 21, 2002

While normally a critic of Instapundit, I've gotta give out the mad props to Prof. Reynolds (and his co-conspirator, Robert Patrick Merges) for this essay, which deals with the huge problems that currently exist in "Intellectual Property" law. Specifically, they are calling into question the constitutionality of the endless attempts to retroactively lengthen and protect the copyrights and patents of the holders of those government-granted monopolies. They address it on both legal and political economic grounds, delivering a series of devestating blows on the overblown rhetoric often used by those (like rent-seeking corporations) who defend a radical and extensive interpretation of their I.P. rights. While I don't agree with all that they said, passages like this:

[T]he value of intellectual property is that it encourages authors, inventors, and investors, to take risks "on the front end" with the expectation of reaping profits later. A post hoc reward, granted on the basis of legislative whim or influence, is unlikely to provide such encouragement as effectively as a regularized system. The vagaries of the political process dictate that extensions will not always be available, and that when they are, they may not always be granted for the most significant inventions or copyrighted works. [FN56] In addition, an important aspect of the copyright and patent system's promotion of creativity lies in the way it ensures that ideas will eventually enter the public domain. Walt Disney, after all, drew on public- domain folk tales when he created such classics as Snow White and Cinderella. Presumably, future creators will draw on Disney's work once it enters the public domain. The same is true of pharmaceutical research, or any other field of technology in which cumulative invention is the rule. Such opportunities are frustrated by legislation that keeps creative or inventive works out of the public domain for years or decades beyond those needed to encourage innovation...
... beautifully encapsulate many of the problems that currently exist and are only getting worse.

One thing that bothers me, though; when something like this comes up, it really highlights the lack of a comments section on IP's site. Issues like this deserve discussion at the source, but that isn't really possible with his current set up (which is why I linked to the article itself instead of the IP entry... there's no reason not to). I realize that it's because the adoption of typical comments systems lwould be too difficult, but surely somebody could either modify or create a comment system to fit his needs?

Anyway, said unlinked entry notes that the article is older and shorter than some others, but it's certainly worth the read nonetheless, especially if you, like myself, aren't a big fan of the arguments used in the current IP debate.

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