Saturday, November 10, 2007

Economics Nobel prize winner says weak IP better for the Web

One of this year's winners of the Nobel prize for economics, Eric Maskin, wrote a paper a few years ago suggesting the conventional wisdom, that the only way for IP owners to protect themselves from the web was through tougher IP laws, was probably wrong. Maskin and James Besson (thanks to Besson for the pointer) developed an economic model which suggested that since the Web operated like a highly interative and dynamic community, "individual publishers and society more generally may benefit from weak intellectual property enforcement in such an environment."

They also suggest that the idea that tighter IP always increases incentives for innovation is based on a limited economic model which just does not apply to dynamic environments. The conventional model however is based on the single creative genius, the romantic author who produces works out of nothing. Yet all creativity and innovation relies on other people's outputs i.e. it is a collective enterprise and even geniuses who make amazing creative leaps, as Newton said, see farther only through standing on the shoulders of giants.

Maskin and Besson conclude by saying that "publishers will do best by recognising and encouraging the complementary contributions of others."

The paper is well worth a read - very accessible and the substantive part is only a little over 6 pages long. (They have a nice accessible version of the OLGA guitar chords site story too).

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