An Economist’s Look at Intellectual Property Law

Prof. Daniel D’Amico discusses several arguments for and against government enforcement of intellectual property, including trademarks, patents, and copyrights. He explores both moral arguments (deontological) and cost benefit arguments (consequential), dedicating most of his time to consequential arguments. He finds that, in general, intellectual property is difficult to enforce and is inherently an anti-rival good. As a result, he finds no compelling case for government established intellectual property law.


  1. socklint

    Kinsella’s book ("Against Intellectual Property") is excellent. I think that the argument that it is immoral to resell a book is tenuous (see video at 1:01:16). Why is it moral to license or patent a good for 17 years and not 18 or 16? If it is property, who is the government to say that you no longer have the right to earn from your labor after such and such a time? If it isn’t property, why should we be punished under our present IP regime? There is a lot to unpack, but a concise version of his work is available (along with an extensive list of resources) at He also offers his book free online in .pdf format ( and as an audiobook (

  2. Daniel Winters

    I like the video. This guy is a little hard to follow with all the awkward mannerisms, does better as he goes along. I think his veiws are a little off base though. In a theoretical perfect world sure you could have total open source. But in order for open source to be a viable reality there are many things in other aspects of life that would need to change. With things as they are I don’t think it’s a good idea. People that come up with these great ideas, methods, artistic creations should be rewarded. If you didn’t pay actors/musicians/artists/thinkers/innovators, what would be their incentive to go down that road? Even if they had a natural talent of titanic proportions for it, they wouldn’t further their own skills in that area because it doesn’t meet their needs. You would have the potential of a massive game changer for the human race working a 9 to 5. Just like a great writer wouldn’t even bother writing his book because he’s not going to make money on it. He NEEDS to spend his time doing other things to survive. In a model like this only the rich flourish. Basically everyone has to be a business person in order to figure out how to sell something that’s copyable. A major concern here is that anyone who has a propensity to specialize in one area of expertise is now limited, and given no incentive.
    How can you say that music is self fulfilling? How can you say that mixing poetry with audio in a way that has powerful physiological effects is only SELF fulfilling? It CAN be sure. Most often though we play to get a response from others. If I play a song and it motivates me, that’s cool. If I play a song and it motivates others, that’s amazing. If I can make money to do nothing but play songs, my passion and my talent are then enhanced by working on my skill of playing songs. If I make no money I don’t have time to enhance my skill; my talent and passion are then wasted, and society suffers because it is not able to benifit from my motivational songs. If I really want to play songs still, yes I can come up with ways to make money on it, but the time I spend doing that is time I don’t spend furthering my skill, and society still is not able to fully benifit from my songs, or worse, they benifit from something that could have been better. I agree that the current method of intellectual property laws is not working as well as it could. However it is still important to support and protect our artists, innovators and thinkers to be successful as a society. Someone with little money, but a great talent for ideas should always be able to focus their time on developing more great ideas/artistic creations/inventions. This is not a way of staunching the crowd source effect, it is actually a way of protecting it, since you cannot crowd source working people in a system that does not allow their mind to grow. I’m not saying I know the sulotion to this issue, although I’m sure I could figure it out if I had the time (i.e. money), I’m just saying this is not the solution we need.
    All in all though I like the video, thank you and I appreciate the study material.
  3. Anonymous

    This relates to uniform packaging laws for tobacco in Australia that are threatening to expand, in respect to intellectual property looting or aquisition by the state.

  4. Keith Knight

    I always here the best dishes are served at small local businesses.  The fact that Olive Garden, Red Robbin, Outback etc. aren’t sending people to steal the recipe is a great argument to not fear repealing IP laws.

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