Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina. Copyright in the marketplace
Giovanni B. Ramello
This paper focus on the relationship between the right's aims of providing an incentive for creative activities, and the overall efficiency. It can in fact be shown that, even if the commodification of intellectual works by means of copyright does provide some incentive for creative activities, this benefit is offset by certain ‘side effects’ on the diversity and quality of the ideas produced, and interference with access to information and the incremental process of creation. All of which, if duly taken into account, can seriously call into question the overall balance of efficiency. In the present-day debate, the justifications given for copyright and author's rights invoke both considerations of economic efficiency, as well as ethics and rhetoric. However such arguments neglect to factor in the social costs, thus portraying in false light an institution that has, in practice, often served private interests very distant from its purported aims, injecting a significant amount of inefficiency into the economic system. This state of affairs can therefore be aptly summed up by the Latin adage of the title: "A wolf often lies concealed in the skin of a lamb". Nevertheless, the objections raised thus far, in the literature on the economic analysis of intellectual property rights, have inevitably resorted to the contra position of extra-economic values, such as equity and justice, against those of economic efficiency. In the present discussion we shall seek to reconcile these two sides, showing how, under an expanded analytical perspective with respect to costs and benefits, and taking into consideration additional elements, copyright proves to be fundamentally inefficient even from a strictly economic standpoint, and that this will only be aggravated by technological progress. We will therefore demonstrate that an examination of the dynamics of the right within the market and society can seriously call into question, or even entirely overturn, the traditional economic arguments in favour of copyright.
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