Economists: Abolish Copyright & Patents to Save the Economy

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Two economists from Washington University have looked at current copyright and patent laws and concluded that they're not good. The pair see current Intellectual property laws as similar to 'medieval trade monopolies' which were bad for the economy as a whole, and are calling for the system to be reformed.

Press releases from the MPAA and RIAA often emphasize how much the extension of copyright terms helps employment and assists the economy, but it’s their job to push this angle.

It’s when independent experts say that extending terms hurts the economy and stifles innovation that people should sit up and take notice. All too often though, such experts are ignored because they are just people that know the subject, rather than fund politicians campaign contributions. Moreover, they focus on facts and case histories, rather than vague associations or made-up figures.

Two such experts are Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, economists at the Washington University in St Louis. Boldrin, chairman of the university economics department, points out that what goes by the name ‘Intellectual Property’ is in fact “an intellectual monopoly that hinders rather than helps the competitive free market regime that has delivered wealth and innovation to our doorsteps.”

“From a public policy view, we’d ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether,” says Levine, the John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics. “There’s plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It’s not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright.”

In a short video clip, Levine states that copyright shouldn’t been seen as a charitable act, which is a lesson Commissioner McCreevy needs to learn. Also, he states that Intellectual Monopoly is the more appropriate term, and that the property label is a recently-given propaganda title, a subject Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has covered in the past.

The views of the economists are presented in their new book, “Against Intellectual Monopoly”, where they suggest that the copyright and patent systems in the US should at least be brought back into line with their constitutional establishment – that of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. In the book, they put the case quite simply – “In the decades to come, sustaining economic progress will depend, more and more, on our ability to progressively reduce and eventually eliminate intellectual monopoly.”

It might be that the Pirate Party has some intellectual support for their positions, and perhaps a Missouri party will soon be in the making.


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