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The Economics of Ideas and the Ideas of Economists


  • William R. Johnson



On college campuses across the country and on millions of home computers, too, young adults download from each other digital files containing recorded music and films for their entertainment. The owners of that copyrighted material pursue the downloaders with legal action as well as the software services that facilitate it. Napster’s existence as a free file-sharing internet site was shut down in 2001, and the Supreme Court has recently ruled that a successor file-sharing service, Grokster, engaged in copyright infringement by providing an easy way for individuals to exchange files. The amount of filesharing activity is not trivial; Paul Romer (2002) estimates that Napster users were downloading at the rate of 1.5 billion downloads per month before Napster was shut down and that the consumer surplus generated by downloading roughly equaled the revenues of the recording industry.

Suggested Citation

  • William R. Johnson, 2005. "The Economics of Ideas and the Ideas of Economists," Virginia Economics Online Papers 368, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:vir:virpap:368

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert W. Fogel, 1999. "Catching Up with the Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 1-21, March.
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    Intellectual Property; property rights; creativity;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature

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