How do intellectual property laws affect the economy?
I've been reading a lot of news about copyright and patent laws with respect to technology. In what ways has intellectual property laws affected the economy and what are the possible pros and cons of proposed changes?
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John Moser commented
Intellectual property laws allow creators to obtain returns on their labor investment, thus creates not only an incentive, but a method to self-sustain.
Unfortunately, copyright terms are so long as to stifle creative pursuits and thus harm the economy.
A trademark is identity, and an indefinite trademark is wholly-appropriate: nobody can say their creation is YOUR creation.
A patent lasts about 20 years. The rapid pace of technological advancement creates an enormous incentive to license patented processes or to put your own into practice for a competitive advantage. A higher minimum wage would of course increase this incentive.
Copyright is death of the author plus 99 years.
With copyright, you need to be popular and interesting. Your book, your movie, your video game, who really wants to consume it? By and large, people aren't waiting years and years for your stuff to be suddenly free.
This creates an odd effect wherein you either make lots of money in the first year or three, or you make nothing and you're never going to. You might make more later, capitalizing on your long-term royalties and long-held interest; but that only really happens sustainably if your work had economic value (i.e. was popular) anyway.
Many would consider the release of copyrighted works in the public domain to carry high social value; but there's also an economic consideration: new works are built on old. King Kong, Cinderella, Snow White, built on old stories. Many bands started as cover bands. Old video games are constantly modified to create new works—illegally.
A 7 year copyright term, with one 7-year renewal, would be reasonably long. Your childhood, your identity, who you are, is defined by the media you consume. Think about yourself. Can you do so without the kinds of music you like, the movies you've watched, books you've read, games you played…before you were 20? These things shaped your social life and your identity.
So it's also a human rights issue: right to cultural heritage, a third-generation human right.
A 7-year term is significant: creative works are capitalized on much more rapidly than patented inventions. A 14-year term is generous. A person's childhood is free to them in their adulthood under such terms, and their creativity—which will be primarily built on the creative works they consumed—can run free with such copyright terms.
Multi-generation copyright terms restrict every generation from the source of their creativity, destroying the economic and social value produced by the arts.
James Cameron commented
Intellectual property affects the economy by providing incentives to create and invent and by protecting the innovators. https://www.farmandranchfences.com
I have no idea what the Economists here would say. I've personally seen very few economists who have grasped that "Intellectual Property" and "Real Property" are both, indeed, "Property" -- like water... But are very different forms of property, with very different proper rules for handling them. Both steam and ice are water, but if you attempted to use the same rules for handling steam that you used to handle ice, then you'd get scalded. And vice versa -- you'd get frostbitten. All too many people who talk about IP think that it can be treated exactly the same -- economically and legally -- as Real Property. They're wrong.
Here's a starting point for consideration -- John Perry Barlow, former member of the band, The Grateful Dead, who got rich doing exactly as he described in this piece, more than 20 years ago:
The Economy of Ideas
A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age. (Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.)
It's moderately long, but well worth the read. And, as someone who has dealt with IP his entire life, I knew it to be spot-on when I first read it 20 years ago, and I maintain it's just as correct today.