Monday, January 2, 2012

Intellectual Property Feudalism

This is a new idea that I picked up from Alex Tabarrok.

Intellectual property is a big deal in macroeconomics. We know that growth comes mostly from technological innovation, but we haven’t yet been able to measure the gains from innovation properly enough to figure out how to protect innovators. Obviously, if they don’t get to keep enough gains from their efforts, they won’t innovate. But the flip side is that if they keep too much of their gains, society won’t benefit as much as it might (e.g., a Hellenistic Greek “invented” the steam engine but didn’t have a society where its benefits were seen as useful).

Anyway, Alex is worried that the length of time that some works are now protected is too long: up to 70 years after your death. That’s right: your unborn great-great-great-grandchildren now have a right to earn monopoly profits of your invention.

He calls this “intellectual property feudalism”. In short, your descendents are privileged because of your current position.

No comments:

Post a Comment