Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mine All Mine!

Yglesias writes something which everyone needs to understand:

Record companies and their movie studio allies have managed to convince a shockingly large swathe of opinion that the purpose of intellectual property law is to prevent copyright infringement. In fact, the purpose is to advance the general welfare of society.

but judging by the number of people who seem to take issue with this in his comments obviously a lot of people don't. Let's go to the constitution:

Clause 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The key phrases being "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" and " securing for limited Times." A lot of the commenters seem to side with Disney et al who, after having made tons of money ripping off fairy tales without paying any royalties, seem to think that copyright law should extend out to time infinity.

The business centered discussion of these and related issues often serves to obscure the point of certain institutions. For example, antitrust law exists solely for the protection of competition for the benefit of consumers, not to protect competitors. It's a seemingly subtle distinction, but it makes a world of difference in how we think about it.