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no copyright evolves from a vacuum and all patents stand on the shoulders of previous patents, so I never understood too well why we should be granting monopolies to works of considerably derivative design. I just ran across Dean Baker's article in last month's post-autistic economic review on some simple means to replace them, assuming we agree on why we had them to begin with. He doesn't discuss business process or software patents in the process, if only because the goddam things are so fucking moronic an extension of monopoly that they should be erradicated completely.
At the onset, the lost consumer surplus from patent and copyright protected pricing is enormous. The basic rule on this issue is that the size of the deadweight loss is proportional to the square of the gap between price and marginal cost. The United States alone is projected to spend $210 billion this year on prescription drugs. In the absence of patent protection, the same drugs would probably cost no more than $50 billion. (The savings would be equal to $500 per person for everyone in the country.) The United States will spend more than $30 billion on recorded music and videos this year, material that could be available at zero cost on the Internet. By comparison, many economists felt the need to comment on the NAFTA agreement in 1993 that reduced tariff barriers on imports from Mexico. At the time, U.S. imports from Mexico were less than $40 billion a year, and the average tariff was already less than 5 percent.
Baker notes the historical origin of patents and copyrights in feudal guild systems rather than capitalist thought, and suggests that rather than offering monopoly rents on created works we shift from such outdated schemes of coercive property relations to distribution of investment via public taxation. E.g. government funded research, already in productive existence, and "a system of individual vouchers, where each adult can be given a fixed sum, which can only be used to support creative or artistic work" [adult should probably read 'tax payer', and what about the teenbopper cliques?], compensating creative production with wages rather than rent.
As such, rents on the property in the exisitng system accrue largely to corporate firms rather than the individual artist or researcher - the vast majority of artists make a fraction of nothing on the distribution of their "property" through the existing legal system and instead make most of their money jobbing at clubs and arenas, while researchers generally sign their patent rights over in return for a salary to some larger non-public entity that is already largely subsidized by tax payments. In this fashion it redistributes wealth to the wealthy, under the rubric of a neo-classical economics that happily abandons any pretense of capitalist political-economy where it fails to serve the them, creating instead agreements like the aforementioned NAFTA or TRIPS that expand these feudal monopolies abroad to fairly genocidal effect.
It's unclear what is produced from the existing system of faceless landlord squatters that would not be produced by the creative workers alone - had they some alternative means of production - beyond the constant, massive marketing barrage that is daily American life. We leave as an exercise for our conservative readers to explain how this might have a negative impact on the liberal media.
It should not be otherwise inconcievable that such a system of public investment afforded by coercive taxation might be replaced by more voluntary methods - "the abandonment of the last citadel of invasion by the substitution of voluntary for compulsory taxation" - the least of which would be to have the remotest semblance of a democratic government, without which we may never move beyond feudalism and the attendant prosecutions of the mass civil disobedience - utterly justifiable - against it. On that note we offer a toast to digital piracy [give to tax-exempt art associations, attend concerts, send checks direct to labor, etc.] and drug bussing, and hope to see more of it.