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January 5, 2005
Reform Copyright, Stimulate Economic Growth
Yesterday I plumbed Ernest Miller's excellent interview with former Napster CEO Hank Barry for a few thoughts on the Grey Album, but it's chock full of must-read material -- including a nice discussion about why too much copyright is as bad for the economy as too little:
EM: You've been a significant and outspoken critic of recent proposed copyright legislation such as the Induce Act. Does copyright law need to be changed? If so, what should those changes be?
HB: It is clear that some level of IP protection is a huge positive for a society -- it stimulates enterprise and innovation -- gives the small guy a way to compete. But Alan Greenspan recently asked "If our objective is to maximize economic growth, are we striking the right balance in our protection of intellectual property rights?" The answer is no. My own view is that the best way to stimulate economic growth right now is reform our copyright and patent laws to decrease the level and scope of protection to promote competition, reduce litigation and increase innovation. An FTC report suggests the same.
Excessive IP rights are like a tax, and we all need a tax cut! As Judge Posner has said: "you might think that if a little copyright is good, then a lot is better. But the matter is not so simple." Too much IP is just as bad as too little. We have come to the somewhat paradoxical point where we need to decrease protection to increase output.
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