James Boyle (seen here in his fancy hat) is a tower of sense on IP law. He published a terrific essay on the subject in the Financial Times recently. Here’s how he sets the scene:
“So how do we decide the ground-rules of the information age? Representatives of interested industries come to regulators and ask for another heaping slice of monopoly rent in the form of an intellectual property right. They have doom-laden predictions, they have anecdotes, carefully selected to pluck the heartstrings of legislators, they have celebrities who testify – often incoherently, but with palpable charisma – and they have very, very simple economic models. The basic economic model here is ‘If you give me a larger right, I will have a larger incentive to innovate. Thus the bigger the rights, the more innovation we will get. Right?’ Well, not exactly.”
The problem, as Boyle sees it, is that we don’t have evidence-based lawmaking in this area. But then he has a great idea: why not look for an instance where one country has implemented a new IP law and another country has not, and compare the results. Does the strong-IP jurisdiction have more innovation than the weak-IP one? The delicious twist in the piece is that he has found such a case — database rights, where the EU legislated and the US did not. Guess which jurisdiction had more innovation in database development?
There’s only one thing better than a writer who quotes Macaulay, and that’s someone who writes like Macaulay. Jamie comes close to that ideal at times. Give him a white hat, someone.