Ars Technica has a brief article on the outspoken Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner, who has been increasingly taking the U.S. Intellectual Property laws to public task. They make particulat reference to the joint blog written by Judge Posner and University of Chicago Economics professor Gary Becker.
In a recent blog entry, Posner tackles the question of whether current copyright and patent laws restrict competition and creativity excessively. In his post, Judge Posner differentiates the propriety of robust patent protection in such R&D intensive fields a pharmaceuticals as opposed to the fast-moving and interative developments that prevail in the software world.
Posner also advocates for reform in the copyright realm as well, with particualy cogent arguments for extension and clarification of fair-use rights, with an eye towards encouraging creativity and academic research. In this field he again uses an economic lens in which he views resource intensive undertakings such as motion pictures very differently from academic books and articles. Between these two extremes he sees a continuum across which the economic utility of protection varies.
Overlaying his economic analysis of the utility (and propriety) of copyright protection is his conclusion that both the excessiveness of the existing 70 year term of the protection beyond the author’s death and negative effects of the many courts’ very narrow interpretation of “fair use” rights.
Both the Ars Technica article and the Posner bog post are well worth reading. While neither digs very deeply or rigorously into the underlying legal and economic arguments at play, Posner’s positions are certainly thought-provoking. If nothing else they represent a cogent call for Congress and the courts to re-examine our intellectual property laws to promote the Constitutional mandate of establishing laws intended to promote the advancement of the arts and sciences: a purpose from which the current IP regime is increasingly straying.