According to economic analysis recently published by Cambridge Ph.D candidate Rufus Pollock, the optimal term for copyright is 14 years. Presumably, this means that a 14 year term would maximize utility across society in an idealized free market or some such. This is of interest to me because I don't believe that one can hold libertarian property rights in information or ideas (or intangibles generally), and so I take copyright and patent law to be constructed in the social contract (which means that its enforceability by goverment is limited, in terms of what the government is morally permitted to do), and so I think we should define them in some way that is mutually beneficial to producers and consumers of content. The current system isn't beneficial to producers or consumers in most cases, but to middle men, and that is certainly bad. When the Constitution says that Congress may "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries," I think it is on the right track: we can define a social contract in this way that provides economic incentives for discoveries and creations, and we should, but the incentive should be placed in a structure as close to optimal as possible, in terms of its total benefit to society.
One thing's for sure: copyright terms are currently FAR too long.Posted by Kenny at July 21, 2007 1:15 PM
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