Saturday, January 31, 2009

Intellectual property ≠ free market

The always interesting Robert Darnton has an interesting piece in the New York Review of Books entitled Google & the Future of Books, in which he essentially argues for a reigning of copyrights, combining the ideas of a shorter term (28 years after creation is what Darnton believes is the platonic ideal, as opposed the current 70 years after author's death) with some wishy-washy democratic platitudes that I can't seem to shake much concrete meaning out of.

It's an interesting essay, though he makes a very common mistake, in automatically associating intellectual property rights with free market ideals:

But we, too, cannot sit on the sidelines, as if the market forces can be trusted to operate for the public good. We need to get engaged, to mix it up, and to win back the public's rightful domain.

In a perfectly free market, clearly there would be nobody to enforce intellectual property rights. Though as Boldrin and Levine explain, content creators still have a significant advantage over the imitators, and innovation in an IP-less world doesn't look like it would suffer.

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