Say That Again

by Mike Masnick

Felten Names The Pizzaright Principle

from the live-it dept

For years, in arguments over intellectual property, it often makes sense to make comparisons to tangible goods to show where arguments break down. A personal favorite for many years is to use pizza as an example good. Not sure why, but it's an easy example. Apparently, I'm not alone. Ed Felten has written up a new concept, called The Pizzaright Principle, as a way of examining claims for stricter intellectual property laws. His argument is that if you can apply the same reasons people say we need stronger intellectual property laws to the idea that someone deserves an exclusive right to sell pizza in a certain market, then you've shown why the arguments being given are bogus. This is a simple recognition: intellectual property laws are granting a monopoly to the owner. In a market economy there are very few situations where a monopoly is the most efficient or best solution for everyone. Whoever is in line to get the monopoly, however, is always going to claim it's a better result. Unfortunately, our politicians seem to only listen to those in line to get the monopoly rights on intellectual property -- and thus, have no problem continually expanding those rights well beyond what's good for the economy or society. So, Pizzaright it is. Now watch, Felten will sue us for trademark infringement...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Curious, Sep 28th, 2005 @ 1:23pm


    As regards patents, the balance of granting a monopoly is needed to motivate people to invest in research. Sure, sometimes you get lucky and get rewarded many times over the cost of the research, but many times not. Are you suggesting society would be better off without these expensive research undertaking? I doubt it, but without a monopoly, then how do you provide motivation for people to undertake expensive research.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 28th, 2005 @ 1:37pm

    Re: hmm

    There is very mixed evidence as to how much patents actually motivate research. If you look at the case of periods of time in places like Switzerland and the Netherlands where they did away with patents -- innovation thrived. It certainly suggests that the market is an adequate method of rewarding people for innovation, and that should motivate them.

    Could there be cases where monopoly rights are needed? Perhaps. But, why do we assume they're needed in so many cases, when most of the examples we keep seeing clearly don't deserve monopoly protection?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    nonuser (BS), Sep 28th, 2005 @ 8:06pm

    such as silly argument

    Anyone is free to set up shop across the street from the only pizza joint on the block, but that would cost significant sums for rent, remodeling, utilities, food, and labor.

    It costs next to nothing to copy and redistribute someone else's digital work, unless it's illegal and you count the costs of mounting a legal defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Jeremy Leader, Sep 28th, 2005 @ 11:49pm

    Re: such as silly argument

    You're assuming that the biggest cost for a vendor of IP (software, entertainment, etc.) is development of that IP. I suspect that in most cases, things like marketing, sales, customer service and support, etc. cost *much* more than initial development. Which brings us back closer to the pizza realm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 29th, 2005 @ 2:16am

    Re: such as silly argument

    Actually, it's easy to flip that around. The fact that it costs next to nothing to redistribute a work should be seen as an *opportunity*. Suddenly, the costs of content creators has been slashed. Instead, they seem to see it as a threat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    patrick, Sep 29th, 2005 @ 9:23am

    Re: such as silly argument

    But why does cost of creation matter? If you build a house for $1 or $1 million, it is still your house and permits you to exclude others from using it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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