The Fruits of Intellectual Property Law
I recently had a debate with a friend of mine regarding intellectual property.
I took the position that intellectual property is not actually property, and that it should not be protected by law. He took the opposite position, at least with regard to the utility of intellectual property laws themselves. My friend argued that without intellectual property law, intellectual producers--Eminem, for example--would have no substantial monetary incentive to invest themselves into producing really "great" works of intellectual property.
This led me to ponder some of the things that would hypothetically disappear if intellectual property laws were to be repealed tomorrow. Among these products that would conceivably no longer have a market are big record label-produced albums, expensive Hollywood movie productions, and mass market video games. Then I pointed out that all of these "products" I brought up tended to have little productive value to society relative to the money that changes hands over them, and that in fact they are considered by many to be corrupting cultural influences. "So," I thought, "is this the fruit of intellectual property law?"
I know there are better examples of some "more valuable" things that are protected by intellectual property law. Take a cure for cancer, for example. Research costs money, and presumably no drug company or other entity is going to invest big in altruistically researching something that offers no big payoff. But also realize that once an entity secures that intellectual product of a cure for cancer, they own it. They could then charge whatever they want for this highly sought-after hypothetical cancer drug, since their new intellectual property would be protected by law. The fruit of intellectual property law in this scenario is not simply a cure for cancer, but a cure for cancer that can't ever again be duplicated and used freely, and that will only be available to the wealthiest of humanity, according to the whims of whoever designs it first!