If it's true that I "have no fundamental right to enjoy the innovations produced by others without compensating them," then it's also true those others have no fundamental right to so-called compensation from me.

Robin assumes private property and markets are inherently Good Things, and builds his arguments from there. But in doing so, he assumes too much. They're social constructs, and their existence needs to be justified. It's not at all obvious to me that they can be, but I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

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"You have no fundamental right to enjoy the innovations produced by others without compensating them."

Forever??? Like land? If I circumnavigate the globe do I owe compensation to the descendants Christopher Columbus? What natural law is this? All the wealth of the world belongs to those who happen to have been born first? Economic efficiency holds that at equilibrium the expected return is equal to the marginal cost of production. Or, how about "you have a fundamental right to *keep your ideas to yourself*! Failing that, you are SOL, since nobody forced them out of you.

If I was an extremist libertarian I would argue the following: Everybody has the right to contract. But society doesn't have a right to contract on my behalf. Therefore if an individual wants to contract with society to disclose his idea in return for compensation he must negotiate individually with each member of society. If I don't accept the terms of his contract, I am under no obligation to respect it.

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It's a very good question.

One approach we already have, and could emphasize more, is providing service rather than providing bits. When a person or a program provides a service, they don't give away the crucial information needed to replicate that service. They only give away one instance of the service, which in many cases is only valuable to one specific client.

Another approach we already have, mainly for the arts, is to control performance rather than copying. This approach is already used in theater, where you have to pay to put on a production. Any sort of mass production, by its nature, will be difficult to do in secret.

Those are two approaches we already use to some degree. What else might we do? Is there some approach not yet really tried?

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I think Robin makes a good argument, that legal systems influence what economic systems are viable within a culture.

Robin is mistaken, I believe, in his attitude that being able to copy from others without permission/attribution is somehow 'sad', or 'wrong'. I happen to agree that attribution is a socially beneficial 'good', but there are enough social carrots / sticks (reputation, shame, pointing-to-recognized-authority, gratitude), that it doesn't need to be encoded in a legal framework with 'real' carrots and sticks.

Farming/cattle ranching being made uneconomical due to a poor legal system is 'sad'.

At the end of the day the system that produces the most 'goods' with the fewest 'bads' is the one that is going to win.

With real-world-physical items, a legal concept of 'property' is a winner, because of the non-sharability of physical items. Land can either produce crops, or graze cattle--not both!

With information, a legal concept of 'property' is a loser, because there is no downside---except, some think, the lack of incentive to create.

I would argue that the 'lack of incentive' position is mistaken. If anything, the world of fashion, and open-source software, has shown that we get MORE creativity, not less. In fact, we so much creativity, it becomes a difficult problem of filtering what is wanted.

The 'super-abundance of riches' problem, is kind of a nice one to have. Unfortunately, our own poor legal framework, with bogus protections, makes it harder to solve. If Steve Jobs didn't have patents and copyright, he would have turned to something else to enforce control. Probably just his own reputation and name, mixed with a bit of public-key cryptography, similar to Linus Torvalds. The lost opportunity cost is hidden and large.

No system is perfect, but some are better than others, depending on the goal. The key is to keep focus on what the real goals are: more goodies for more people. Protections, for those who seek to close-off and rent out the intellectual-spaces the've stumbled upon, is not a good in and of itself.

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Patent law is not a bar to any kind of speech. It only bars the making, using and selling of the invention.

I heard an interview on NPR this morning where a Senator was bemoaning the fact that the economy is not as strong today as it has been for the last 50 years and so government tinkering has to be done more carefully.

He was talking like no one knows why the economy is not as strong, where it is pretty clear what the problem is. The economy has become less efficient. If the economy was more efficient, there would be more surplus available for growth.

What has happened is that each little bit of the economy has gotten better at extracting the value-added of that particular little bit of the economy. If too much of the value-added is extracted by one party, there isn't enough left in the value-added chain to nourish the rest of the chain and the chain (the rest of the economy) cannot grow.

This is what a monopoly power can do, it can extract value disproportionate to its value-added. That extracted value comes from somewhere, and so the economy is stifled. The marketplace doesn't favor the best inventions, it favors the most profitable ones because profit can be used as a weapon to defeat the less profitable ones. Spending $100 in IP barbed wire to make $10 in IP profit is no different than spending $0 in IP barbed wire and making $10 in IP profit to the producer, but the consumer pays $110 in the first case and $10 in the second.

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Re: “I expect IP advocates will develop better forms of intellectual property, and better technologies for marking, sharing, and enforcing such property.”,

I also expect that Communism advocates will develop better forms of deciding how resources should be allocated and better technologies for enforcing such resource allocation, so that we may one day truly have "From each according to his ability. To each according to his needs."

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"Even if you had an effectively infinite supply of money, negotiating with all the (claimed, perceived or just fraudulent) “property owners” would be absurd.This is, to some extent, why air travel (over others’ land) is not considered trespassing."Great quote!

Also pardon, that previous reply of mine was a reply to RH not to Anders.

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Also the fact that almost charity is enough to create out of equilibrium spending on 3rd world support, should say something about possibilities of human freedom for art support.

RH: "Just as farmers developed barbed-wire, someday I expect IP advocates will develop better forms of intellectual property ... Which, like barbed-wire, will mostly be a good thing. "

I think this analogy is false, or atleast missing something important. We use barbed wire because crops and farmland is scarce, but ideas are not, not even great ideas.

Anyone who has created art at some form know that most of it would have never been possible without the "capital production chain" of previous ideas, all of which can never be compensated. Boldrin and Levine have documented a lot of these.

And like Newton said. "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.". Now if someone is waiting for some barbed wire around Newton's law of universal gravitation, don't hold your breath.

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Also, the comparison of IP to barbed wire is very apt. I recall reading the following some 5-10 years ago -

"The symbol of copyright should be a candle surrounded with barbed wire, symbolizing that even though I could let you light your candle without diminishing the light of mine, I will not let you do that."

Can not find the source, unfortunately.

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Correction. You have no fundamental right to anything. With some abstract level of thinking any simple moral concept can be shattered to pieces.

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Some people seem to see the issue pretty black and white.

While I don't like IP in today's world, I can definitely see the reasonableness on the other side of the issue. The capital expenditures for information is high yet the marginal cost of information is zero, thus there could be incentive problems to create ideas. However one must not forget that most ideas are very much derivates from previous ones.

However the reason I don't like IP is two-folded.

There's no paradise on earth. Atleast that what I thought before. But the world of ideas is a paradise. There's no scarcity, ideas are immortal. One could create an idea, and everyone afterwards could enjoy it for generations to come, almost no matter how poor they are. It is really a powerful thought when I first realized this.

Then the state comes around and starts to put up some barbed wire so to speak, and tell which ideas are owned by which people, and who are allowed to enjoy these ideas and how many times. It makes me sad.

Also one reason I don't like IP so much is like I don't like taxing positive externalities. While I can easily see the economic argument for that, there's something inherently dangerous of giving judges, politicians and special interest groups so much power in alleged lack of economic surplus. This is the dimension that I usually thinking about the most when I'm reading about institutional design. The current patent mess is a great example of a failed inst. design, I don't see anything "great" about that.

You can have your agricultural subsidies if I can keep the world of ideas free.

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Why not simply use the existing "pay it forward" system like General Public License or Creative Commons? The main idea is "you may take and use all my ideas as long as everyone can use your ideas that are evidently based on my ideas, also, attach this clause to your ideas." Seeing that it is hard to sell ideas, the system vastly reduces the costs of ideas and places no restrictions on selling implementations, putting scarcity where it belongs - in physical world. Overall wealth is increased as people no longer have to invent the wheel (desing operating system, web publishing, catchy tunes) from scratch and can instead work on improving those ideas.

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This is a great comment, but I'd add that it's not a one-way relationship between law/security and ecology. Europe may well have developed quasi-pastoralism because they enforced property rights in land, and the nomads of Africa not because they didn't, more than vice versa.

In the American livestock-and-fencing rule case I can buy that the causation went largely from ecology to law. They had an abundance of cheap or free wild lands on which to feed livestock. Americans also partially regressed from horses to oxen as draft animals, after several centuries of an English move from oxen to horses, since oxen can be more easily fed on wild lands whereas good draft horse work generally requires fodder.

There may also be transport costs and comparative advantage at work. If you're far away from navigable water, and so can't afford to transport your grain to market, cattle, which can be driven over a much larger distance, have a comparable advantage. So an efficient rule would favor the dominant industry in these areas. Even if conditions change, for example the coming of a railroad that makes grain growing competitive, once the rule is in place, roving pastoralism (and the associated pathologies) can be locked in until cheap fencing becomes available. However, I'd bet that near the railroads grain farming would have won out anyway, and they would have figured out creative ways to secure their farms (ditches, hedges, stone fences, etc.) The British didn't have barbed wire but enclosed their livestock (under the reverse rule) just fine.

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I know. The patents and copyrights are constitutional. They are exceptions to the general 1st amendment right of free speech.

However, the constitution only mandates that Congress may make statutory copyright laws. It does not oblige the Congress to do that. Thus, if the Copyright Act were repealed (very unlikely), there would be no copyright protection at all, only the right of free speech.

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There is no misconception, just muddied tense because the people who developed Linux initially aren't mostly dead.

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If I develop a better system for intellectual property does that mean that the rest of the world has no fundamental right to use it without my consent?

Brilliant! The academic spewing his ideas willy-nilly for free. Of course, this is part of the "freemium" model of universities: you get famous by publicizing for free, and that induced people to buy your premium products (degrees or education, depending on how realistic you are being about what you do.)

I would love to see a somewhat quantitative analysis of when and how it is optimum to own IP and when and how it is optimum to not own it. It seems clear to me that the vast majority of patents now are BS, essentially things that anybody competent would come up with when asked to solve a particular problem. If patents really were inventive, then there wouldn't be races to the patent office.

How about you can only patent stuff which no one else comes up with within 6 months of your applying for the patent? That is, the literature search happens for literature before your patent application and up to 6 months after your application. Consistent with current patent law where applications are not published until 6 months after they are recieved. In all areas where duplicate ideas are submitted within 6 months, no one owns the patent (and the applications are then NOT published.) We'd have a lot fewer patents, the ones we had would be a lot more fundamental.

My intuition is we would be a lot better off with FEWER barriers to idea-combining, not more. I am not a brilliant economist, where are the brilliant economists analysing this?

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