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Property rights and externalities: The uneasy case of knowledge

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  • Ramello, Giovanni B.

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Abstract

Drawing from Coase's methodological lesson, this article discusses the specific case of knowledge, which was for a long time chiefly governed by exchange mechanisms lying outside the market, and has only recently been brought into the market. Its recent, heavy "colonization" by the property paradigm has progressively elicited criticism from commentators who, for various reasons, believe that the market can play only a limited role in pursuing efficiency in the knowledge domain. The article agrees with the enounced thesis and tries to provide an explanation of it that relates to the fact that in specific circumstances property-rights can produce distinct market failures that affect the social cost and can consequently prevent attainment of social welfare. In particular, the arguments set forth here concern three distinct externalities that arise when enforcing a property rights system over knowledge. First, the existence of a property right may itself alter individual preferences and social norms, thus causing specific changes in individuals' behaviour. Second, the idiosyncratic nature of knowledge, as a collective and inherently indivisible entity, means that its full propertization can be expected to produce significant harm. Third, property rights can cause endogenous drifts in the market structure arising from the exclusive power granted to the right holder: though generally intended as a necessary mechanism for extracting a price from the consumer, in the knowledge domain property rights can become a device for extracting rents from the market.

Suggested Citation

  • Ramello, Giovanni B., 2010. "Property rights and externalities: The uneasy case of knowledge," POLIS Working Papers 149, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  • Handle: RePEc:uca:ucapdv:149
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Heidi L. Williams, 2013. "Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence from the Human Genome," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(1), pages 1-27.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marchese, Carla & Marsiglio, Simone & Privileggi, Fabio & Ramello, Giovanni, 2014. "Endogenous Recombinant Growth through Market Production of Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201413, University of Turin.
    2. Simplice A. Asongu & Antonio R. Andrés, 2017. "The impact of software piracy on inclusive human development: evidence from Africa," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(5), pages 585-607, September.
    3. Alberto Cassone & Giovanni Ramello, 2011. "The simple economics of class action: private provision of club and public goods," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 205-224, October.
    4. Marchese Carla & Ramello Giovanni B., 2011. "In the Beginning Was the Word. Now is the Copyright," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 271-289, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    property rights; knowledge; invention; externalities; efficiency;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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