Nobel economist on harm lurking in copyright monopolies

Joseph E. Stiglitz is a Nobel-laureate economist who has advised the US government on its copyright and patent trade policies and served as Senior VP of the World Bank. In a stirring editorial in the Pakistan Daily Times, Stiglitz talks about the economic irrationality that arises from overly broad copyright and patent regimes, and talks about the consequences for the developing world that arise from them:

The economic rationale for intellectual property is that faster innovation offsets the enormous costs of such inefficiencies. But it has become increasingly clear that excessively strong or badly formulated intellectual property rights may actually impede innovation – and not just by increasing the price of research.

Monopolists may have much less incentive to innovate than they would if they had to compete. Modern research has shown that the great economist Joseph Schumpeter was wrong in thinking that competition in innovation leads to a succession of firms. In fact, a monopolist, once established, may be hard to dislodge, as Microsoft has so amply demonstrated…

Unfortunately, the trade negotiators who framed the intellectual-property agreement of the Uruguay trade round of the early 1990's (TRIP's) were either unaware of all of this, or more likely, uninterested. I served on the Clinton administration's Council of Economic Advisors at the time, and it was clear that there was more interest in pleasing the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries than in ensuring an intellectual-property regime that was good for science, let alone for developing countries.


(Thanks, Ren!)