My Last Word on Copyright
- William M. Landes and Richard A. Posner,*
An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law
18 J. Leg. Stud. 325, 325-33, 344-53 (1989)
....A distinguishing characteristic of intellectual property is its "public good" aspect. While the cost of creating a work subject to copyright protectionfor example, a book, movie, song, ballet, lithograph, map, business directory, or computer software programis often high, the cost of reproducing the work, whether by the creator or by those to whom he has made it available, is often low. And once copies are available to others, it is often inexpensive for these users to make additional copies. If the copies made by the creator of the work are priced at or close to marginal cost, others may be discouraged from making copies, but the creator's total revenues may not be sufficient to cover the cost of creating the work. Copyright protectionthe right of the copyright's owner to prevent others from making copiestrades off the costs of limiting access to a work against the benefits of providing incentives to create the work in the first place. Striking the correct balance between access and incentives is the central problem in copyright law. For copyright law to promote economic efficiency, its principal legal doctrines must, at least approximately, maximize the benefits from creating additional works minus both the losses from limiting access and the costs of administering copyright protection...."
The moral here is that, just like with respect to the construction of laws involving LVT which arguably should not just appropriate economic rent, but recognize any loss of individual rights and the reasonable expectations of recent purchasers, issues involving copyright law are complicated. That means that facile, one-size-fits-all approaches--like total and immediate abolition--are likely not really in the public interest.