Intellectual Property Laws: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
In the rogues’ gallery of regulatory rent-seeking, copyright and patent laws are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. According to the ingenious and highly effective rhetoric of their beneficiaries and supporters, these laws are the very antithesis of rent-seeking. Far from conferring special and undeserved privileges, they merely defend the rightful owners of “intellectual property” from “theft” and “piracy.” While rent-seeking misallocates resources and retards growth, intellectual property advocates claim that patent and copyright protections unleash artistic creativity and technological innovation by securing for artists and inventors just recompense for their efforts. Copyright and patent laws, therefore, are not only an integral part of the private property system that undergirds all market economies, but they are also a vital linchpin of innovation and growth in the contemporary knowledge-based economy.