defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
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It isn't widely recognized, but a variety of private contracts have implications similar to government mandated "intellectual property." One of the most significant things is the enforcement by goverment of non-compete clauses. This makes it impossible for employees to leave a firm to work for a rival or start their own firm in competition with their employer. As with most anti-competitive contracts, this is popular with would-be monopolists, but the consequent lack of competition is not especially good for innovation. There is a literature that suggests that Silicon Valley became...well Silicon Valley... and Route 128 in Boston became not much of anything despite Route 128 having the same starting conditions of computer firms and strong universities as Silicon Valley because Massachusetts enforces non-compete agreements, and California will not. If you want to find out more about this the ever valuable Mike Masnick has done a nice job of digging into some of the literature and details.
There's a big difference between a noncompete and government mandated IP laws. In the former the parties both agree to enter into the relationship in exchange for a mutually beneficial situation (employer gets worker, worker gets pay).
The laws can be enforced against your will. That's a significant difference.
[Comment at 12/10/2007 05:44 AM by Art]
It is possible to waive Intellectual Privileges. It is still possible to agree not to have IP restrictions if it is mutually beneficial. It is also possible, if anti-trust laws don't prevent it, to agree not to compete when buying art.
For me the fact that it is possible to contract in and out of Intellectual Privilege restrictions is very confusing. If Intellectual Privilege hampers innovation, it should be mutually beneficial to contract out of the system.
We already see this happening in some cases, notably copyleft contracts like the GPL. Again I wonder why the practice is not more widespread. Has it not yet been discovered by the rest? Left to itself, would the free market have contracted into IP in some cases?
[Comment at 12/10/2007 08:22 AM by Kid]
Freedom to contract does not solve the problem of monopoly. Monopoly is reinforced when you and I write a collusive contract agreeing to charge a higher price to a third person who isn't a party to the contract. Noncompete agreements and other private contracts work the same way as government "mandated" intellectual property: they are noncompetitive agreements. Here the third party is the prospective future employer.
[Comment at 12/11/2007 07:57 AM by David K. Levine]
In this case, we don't both make a profit. I am taken advantage as much as anybody else. In a sense, I am, by choosing to buy from the monopoly instead of choosing a free alternative, voluntarily trading away my liberties in return for the art it makes.
I wonder, if people (I am not alone) so readily trade these liberties away, how are we EVER going to stop intellectual monopoly? Is the only "solution" to ban voluntary agreement?
Also, in what ways are our current Intellectual Privilege laws worse than buying subject to contract? Do we gain a lot by moving to contracts from Intellectual Privilege?
[Comment at 12/12/2007 04:09 PM by Kid]
You and I write a contract agreeing to split the monopoly profit derived by charging colluding to charge a high price to people who aren't party to the contract. There is nothing to say you can't pay me extra if I agree to sign a no-compete agreement: and if you want me to sign it, then that's exactly what you have to do.
[Comment at 12/12/2007 05:33 PM by David K. Levine]
If the publisher were forced to put the art on the market without monopoly protection, then society would win. We'd have low prices and low costs of innovating. So, what we need is not monopoly protection but precisely the opposite, making monopoly illegal. Right?
The problem, then, is not so much the idea of Intellectual Privilege regulation but market failure in the form of monopoly, that we want government to correct.
[Comment at 12/12/2007 06:44 PM by Kid]
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