14 July 2007

A World Without Intellectual Monopolies...

...would be fine. And look, it's not just me:

The repeal of IP might create for it an additional cost of doing business, namely efforts to ensure that consumers are aware of the difference between the genuine product and impersonators. This is a cost of business that every enterprise has to bear. Patents and trademarks have done nothing to keep Gucci and Prada and Rolex impersonators at bay. But neither have the impersonators killed the main business. If anything, they might have helped, since imitation is the best form of flattery.

That was always true, but now there's another reason for believing it:

The Internet age has taught that it is ultimately impossible to enforce IP. It is akin to the attempt to ban alcohol or tobacco. It can't work. It only succeeds in creating criminality where none really need exist. By granting exclusive rights to the first firm to jump through the hoops, it ends up harming rather than promoting competition.

But some may object that protecting IP is no different from protecting regular property. That is not so. Real property is scarce. The subjects of IP are not scarce, as Stephan Kinsella explains. Images, ideas, sounds, arrangements of letters on a page: these can be reproduced infinitely. For that reason, they can't be considered to be owned.

BTW, the Stephan Kinsella paper referred to above, called simply "Against Intellectual Property", is also fantastic stuff. Good to know that the we few - we happy few - are growing in number. (Via Against Monopoly.)

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