Geoff Manne on copyright

Geoff Manne

December 11, 2012

In last week’s episode of Surprisingly Free, Tom Bell introduced his chapter in Copyright Unbalanced, a new book on the conservative and libertarian case for copyright reform, edited by Jerry Brito. This week, Geoff Manne, lecturer in law at Lewis & Clark Law School and Executive Director of the International Center for Law & Economics, explains how, while also working from libertarian principles, he arrived at a very different view of copyright than either Brito or Bell.

Taking an economic approach to property rights, Manne argues that there is a necessary tradeoff between incentive to create and widespread access. While Manne does recognize the value of widespread use, he says that its benefits must be weighed against the potential breakdown in specialization of labor and the value added by commercialization.

According to Manne, just because someone has exclusive rights to something, doesn’t mean that it won’t be optimally distributed, and, in fact, the highest value ownership right tends to transfer from the creator to the users over time.

Manne concludes that if the government can have any important role, it’s the creation and enforcement of property rights, including copyright, and that that may necessitate new copyright laws.

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