“What this amazing book deals with is the real-world practice of intellectual-property regulation now and in history. I can make a personal guarantee that not a single objection you think you have to their thesis goes unaddressed in these pages.”
“Their main thesis is a seemingly simple one. Copyright and patents are not part of the natural competitive order. They are products of positive law and legislation, imposed at the behest of market winners as a means of excluding competition. They are government grants of monopolies, and, as neoclassical economists with a promarket disposition, the authors are against monopoly because it raises prices, generates economic stagnation, inhibits innovation, robs consumers, and rewards special interests.”
“They show that people like James Watt, Eli Whitney, and the Wright Brothers are not heroes of innovation, as legend has it, but rent-seeking mercantilists who dramatically set back the cause of technological development. These people spent vast resources prohibiting third parties from improving “their” product and making it available at a cheaper price. Instead of promoting innovation and profitability, they actually stopped it, even at the cost of their own business dreams.
The authors show that every great period of innovation in human history has taken place in the absence of intellectual property, and that every thicket of IP has ended up stagnating the industries to which they apply. Think of the early years of the web, in which open-source technology inspired breakneck development, until patents and copyright were imposed with the resulting cartelization of operating systems. Even today, the greatest innovations in digital communications come from the highly profitable open-source movement.
It is impossible to develop software without running into IP problems, and the largest players are living off IP and not innovation. Meanwhile, the most profitable and most innovative sector of the web, the porn sector, has no access to courts and IP enforcement because of the stigma associated with it. It is not an accident that absence of IP coincides with growth and innovation. The connection is causal.
And look at the industries that do not have IP access, such as clothing design and architecture and perfume. They are huge and fast moving and fabulous. First movers still make the big bucks, without coercing competition. Boldrin and Levine further speculate that IP is behind one of the great puzzles of the last millennium: stagnation in classical music. The sector is seriously burdened and tethered by IP.”
“And yes, the book covers the poster child of the IP world: pharmaceuticals. They muster plenty of evidence that IP here does nothing to promote innovation and widespread availability and is largely responsible for the egregiously high prices of drugs that are driving the system toward socialization.
The authors explore the very strange tendency of capitalists to misdiagnose the source of their profits in a world of IP, spending far more on beating up pirates than they would have earned in a free market. They further demonstrate that IP is a form of exploitation and expropriation that is gravely dangerous for civilization itself.”
“If the book lacks for anything, it is precisely what Kinsella provides: a robust theory behind the practical analytics.”