A Response to Leibowitz and Margolis [11:06 pm]
Shakespeare’s works are valuable centuries after they were written. Does that mean that without a 500-year monopoly, they would never have been written? Was an extended copyright term necessary to induce him to write them? Obviously not, because there was no copyright at the time.
With this rhetorical question in mind, one can see that Liebowitz and Margolis have confused two very distinct issues:
- what economic incentives are required to _motivate_ and/or _reward_ creators of IP;
- How long is a given copyrighted work economically valuable?
The fact that a copyrighted work is valuable in perpetuity does not mean that one has a right to a perpetual government-enforced monopoly over copying it. The governmental legal protection comes with a (fair) price: the protection expires after a reasonable term.
By confusing these two things, L&M are rationalizing rent-seeking by publishers. Longer terms do nothing to reward creators or stimulate more or better IP creation. This is proven by their own argument. Yes, in fact a very small amount of the IP products (say, 2%) account for (say, 90%) of the economic value. What they forgot is that no one knows which 2% of the works is going to be so valuable! Which means *all* of the IP that we have would be created regardless of whether the protection term was extended or not. One simply does not know which products have the long-lived value ex ante, only ex post. So it is only publishers seeking rents on existing valuable products, not creators seeking rewards or stimulants for creativity, who are interested in term extensions.