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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Necessity of Regulation for a Robust Culture and Economy--The Case of Copyright



Copyright is a form of regulation. If I spent five years  and a million dollars whittling a tree into a toothpick, that toothpick won’t be worth a penny more for all my work than any other toothpick. But if I spend five years and a hundred million making a movie, that movie, says the law, should be protected. According to the market, it should be worth what you can get for it—which is nothing. It’s easy to copy and distribute for free. You’re spending a fortune to create an object which in the free market is worthless. Only regulation gives it any value. This falsification of the real market value of a movie is necessary however. Without it, no one would make movies. And movies are valuable to the culture in ways that have nothing to do with money.

Value is not limited to economic value—that’s merely the simple metaphor by which we understand (imprecisely) the notion of value. Regulation may sometimes stifle the market. At other times regulation creates and releases value. The value it creates may be frankly economic—as in copyright. The value it releases transcends the whole economic paradigm. 

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