Copyright holders of multi-million dollar franchises decry piracy and proclaim it to be a threat to their business. The reality is different. Piracy can spur competition and keep prices lower as a result. Additionally, the amount of piracy isn’t as high as large mega-corporations will have you believe. Meaning that the concerns around piracy are overblown and that piracy is counter intuitively good for the economy.
“When information goods are sold to consumers via a retailer, in certain situations, a moderate level of piracy seems to have a surprisingly positive impact on the profits of the manufacturer and the retailer while, at the same time, enhancing consumer welfare,” wrote Antino Kim, assistant professor of operations and decision technologies at Kelley, and his co-authors.
“Such a win-win-win situation is not only good for the supply chain but is also beneficial for the overall economy.”
While not condoning piracy, Kim and his colleagues were surprised to find that it can actually reduce, or completely eliminate at times, the adverse effect of double marginalization, an economic concept where both manufacturers and retailers in the same supply chain add to the price of a product, passing these markups along to consumers.
Depending on your worldview Intellectual Property (IP) is either necessary or holds us back in terms of cultural (and economic ) development. IP applies to more than what you may think, it covers cartoons to medicine. What’s more, international trade has meant that the American approach to IP is spreading. This only favours the owners of existing IP while making it harder for new cultural works to exist. Thankfully this has been noticed by many thinkers and the conversation is changing.
The US Patent Act of 1870 and Copyright Act of 1976 treat patents and copyrights as kinds of property, therefore suggesting that intellectual property rights should be akin to tangible property rights: that is, ‘perpetual and exclusive’. But legal protections offered to intellectual property assets are utilitarian grants – they are neither perpetual nor exclusive. (Tangible property is said to be perpetual because it is yours till you dispose of it.) Their terms are limited and amenable to nonexclusive use. Patent law offers exceptions for experimental use, and prior-use rights for business methods; copyright law for fair use; trademark law for nominative use; trade secrets for reverse engineering and independent discovery.
Legal protections appropriate for tangible objects – as the drafters of the US Constitution were well aware – are a disaster in the realm of culture, which relies on a richly populated, open-for-borrowing-and-reuse public domain. It is here, where our culture is born and grows and is reproduced, that the term ‘intellectual property’ holds sway and does considerable mischief.
The music industry should embrace illegal file-sharing websites, according to a study of Radiohead’s last album release that found huge numbers of people downloaded it illegally even though the band allowed fans to pay little or nothing for it.
“Rights-holders should be aware that these non-traditional venues are stubbornly entrenched, incredibly popular and will never go away,” said Eric Garland, co-author of the study, which concluded there was strong brand loyalty to controversial “torrent” and peer-to-peer services.
Libraries are offering more free search services, database access, articles, photos, eBooks, audiobooks, music and museum passes than ever. Chances are you are buying, subscribing to, or stealing something you can get for free with a library card.