The physics of IP

Equity demands information-makers be compensated. But I don’t think that it follows that people should have exclusive and enforced rights to information. We could reward them by paying them out of taxes, or paying them a pension, or some other means. Telling them they own forever the stuff they make but that they can sell rights to it just seems:

1. Bad for the greater good because it stifles innovation and hurts consumers and information producers alike
2. Hacked on, given the amount of paperwork and disputes the system generates
3. Completely impossible to enforce anyway

The problem is not just that the practical aspects are flawed, I think the deeper problem is the construct of ownership of a non-scarce good. We won’t come up with any ‘good’ way to regulate the ownership of information because the idea is really silly from the outset.

If Newton’s heirs started suing people over their use of the theory of gravity under some forgotten English law, we wouldn’t just say “Oh, science doesn’t count”, we would say “You can’t possibly own that, that’s insane” but I don’t think it’s any less sane than owning a song or a drug formula.

That said I have no objection whatsoever on industry regulated appellations like champagne and feta. They don’t claim ownership of ideas, just namespace. Not offensive to me. Not so much brand names either.


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