Intellectual Property Should Not Be Treated Like Property

Stanford Professor Mark Lemley argues that the notion that intellectual property resembles property ‘represents a fundamental misapplication of the economic theory of property…. the externalities in intellectual property are positive, not negative, and property theory offers little or no justification for internalizing positive externalities. Indeed, doing so is at odds with the logic and functioning of the market. From this core insight, I proceed to explain why free riding is desirable in intellectual property cases except in limited circumstances where curbing it is necessary to encourage creativity. I explain why economic theory demonstrates that too much protection is just as bad as not enough protection’

‘Free riding’ off of someone else’s land or other physical property rights is always undesirable, freely benefitting from someone else’s intellectual property rights is often the best way to form a free and creative society. Lemley’s distinction also points to the unusual fact that in IP, traditional liberals are often calling for less and less government, while conservatives demand regulation in order to protect their exclusive right to use their intellectual creations.






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