The purpose of copyright law

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3 Responses

  1. C.T. says:

    I often find these debates to be quite frustrating in that they seem to be premised on the notion that copyright is somehow a zero-sum game, and that its purpose is *either* for the public good *or* for incenting the creation of new works. Almost always lost in the shuffle is the fact that these objectives are, or were intended to be, coextensive.

  2. TJ says:

    I join C.T.’s observation. Yglesias is making the classical economic argument, and Bunch is making what might be called the Lockean argument. At the end of the day, they really don’t lead to much of a difference in outcomes, since you don’t have incentive without reward. The only difference is whether we should give rewards even if they create no incentive (or create utterly unnecessary incentives).

    Finally, I’m not nearly so impressed at the level of the debate, even if these are not IP people. It is very unhelpful sloganeering to say the purpose of IP is to prevent stealing, because the statement is circular. There is nothing to “steal” until the law defines what the property right is. It is like saying the purpose of law is to prevent illegal behavior.