Intellectual Property

Lawrence Solum has a good thoughtful post today considering the RIAA’s recent tactic of threatening to file numerous lawsuits against people who share many copyrighted songs on peer-to-peer networks.

Go read it.

I agree with Solum that this strategy is not likely to be successful, and that the future of file-trading depends on the evolution of “copynorms” (the informal social attitudes about the rightness or wrongness of duplicating material that is copyrighted).

I think this topic is fascinating and I’m very curious to see how this all plays out.

I used to think these issues were straightforward. It seemed clear to me that artists and authors should have complete intellectual property rights over their works and should be able to dictate the terms of their distribution and use. But, over time, things began to look a bit murkier. Digital copies are different from objects whose use by one person excludes its use by another. It seems that there are limits to what kind of control over these copies the creator should have.

I’m not very confident that our legal system will strike the right balance, but I hope that markets and the common sense of most people will get us to a reasonable state where artists are compensated for their efforts and fans have enough flexibility to explore and enjoy the works without onerous restrictions

It should be an interesting ride.

Happy Birthday, Milton!

Today is Milton Friedman‘s 91st birthday.

I saw his Free To Choose series on PBS in 1980 and was very impressed; not just with how bright and convincing he was, but with how thoughtful, kind, and
patient he was with people who didn’t understand his arguments.

The series inspired me to go out and read Free To Choose, and then Capitalism and Freedom.

Milton Friedman was an important influence on me, and I’m sure he’ll continue to be a great influence on others for many years to come.

I heard him on a radio interview a few months ago and he still seemed very sharp. I hope he’s having a great time!