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Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina. Copyright in the marketplace

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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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Paper provided by Cattaneo University (LIUC) in its series LIUC Papers in Economics with number 141.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:liu:liucec:141

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  1. Hong, Hoon, 2000. "Marx and Menger on Value: As Many Similarities as Differences," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 87-105, January.
  2. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1987. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(3), pages 783-832.
  3. R. Isaac & James Walker, 1998. "Nash as an Organizing Principle in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods: Experimental Evidence," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 191-206, December.
  4. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-37, May.
  5. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1988. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial R&D," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 862, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Audretsch, David B, 1997. "Technological Regimes, Industrial Demography and the Evolution of Industrial Structures," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 49-82.
  7. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1989. "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 325-63, June.
  8. Dominique Foray, 1989. "Les modèles de compétition technologique. Une revue de la littérature," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 48(1), pages 16-34.
  9. Paul A. David, 2000. "The Digital Technology Boomerang: New Intellectual Property Rights Threaten Global "Open Science"," Working Papers 00016, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  10. Robert Tollison, 2012. "The economic theory of rent seeking," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 73-82, July.
  11. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. A. Marvasti, 2000. "Motion Pictures Industry: Economies of Scale and Trade," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 99-114.
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