Who Owns Ideas? CBC's Ideas radio documentary on copyright

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's venerable Ideas programme just aired a fantastic one-hour segment on copyright called "Who Owns Ideas?" with a wide range of interviews with me, James Boyle, Steve Page from BNL, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Eric Flint, Michael Geist and many others. MP3: Who Owns Ideas?


  1. How can anyone calculate a cost-benefit analysis of whether the losses incurred by free riders are greater than the losses due to the exclusion via government-granted monopoly (i.e. so-called “intellectual property”)?

    Once again, it’s an economic question of What is Seen and What is Unseen by Frédéric Bastiat. (i.e. the broken window fallacy)

    Demand rational consequentialist justification for why the government should provide corporate welfare in the form of “intellectual property”. If such justifications cannot be cogently given, then IP must be abolished.

  2. I’ll tell you what IP does, it holds back the world. It’s used like a big fat ball and chain by the controlling power elite. Geez, before I know it I’m going to be some sort of Siglaritian-Maxist. I blame BoingBoing.

  3. Sigularitarian-Marxist

    The irony is that submitting paperwork to the government (USPTO) for a monopoly on production using a particular design or set of information is probably one the most Marxist-Communist activities an enterprise can engage in.

    Yet, talk about instead allowing everyone free entry into exercising their capital competitively without government interference of “copyright” and “patent”, and the pro-IP crowd can’t label you a “pinko commie” fast enough.

    People who favor “intellectual property” law seem to completely fail to grasp the issues of rivalry and excludability in property law.

    The explanation for why we have property in the first place, is because of the problems of rivalry and excludability in a material universe. If we all had Star Trek style replicators, we wouldn’t really need property law. (Except for land/space, and perhaps our bodies as a matter of privacy.)

  4. All the people who confused Patents, trademarks and copyright above… what can anyone say to you about this issue?

    and Zuzu… you REALLY REALLY have no idea what Marxism is… your comment is so very… reversing accepted definitions of free trade, Marxism and Communism.

    Excludability and Rivalry are, at best, of minor importance in economics and business. Trying to make minor concepts important is going to seem really strange to the lawyers and MBAs who have structured the law to reflect things that are important vs unimportant.

    Property law starts and started first with real estate, so your property law comment is truly truly bizarre because it’s not that real estate property law is an afterthought, it’s the primary thought.

    So let’s start with a bunch of people using incorrect definitions trying to argue that their completely misinformed way is better than the US Law. Wow! No wonder copyfight is losing steam so quickly.

  5. Let’s talk about excludability for one second. Excludability refers only to consumers and not producers. In the example of people filesharing songs to other people, in economic terms they cease to be merely consumers of the goods, but distributors of the goods. They have every legal right to consume the goods, but no legal right to distribute the goods. Get it? No one’s going to get in trouble for listening to music free on a band’s myspace page, but they will get in trouble for distributing the mp3s via filesharing.

    So… what you end up with in filesharing is easily defined as the Free Rider problem. And this goes back to high school economics here folks, this is not advanced thinking. The Free Rider issue is a much bigger deal in econ than excludability. When it comes to file sharing, the people enjoying music without paying for it are free riders. Increase the population of free riders and you reach a Pareto Inefficiency. Be inefficient long enough and producers back out of the market, bands refuse to tour and everyone gets a day job.

    That’s free market economics folks, keep going down the road to Pareto Inefficiency and the music business will collapse faster than the poetry business and no one will have interest in entering that market and we’ll be listening to music from the 1960s for the rest of our lives.

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