Jeffrey Tucker: IP laws are a remnant of a precapitalist age

If you look at the origins of these two institutions, we can see the essence of what is going on. Copyright originated as a government restriction on printing during England’s religious wars. As it developed, it had nothing to do with individual rights and everything to do with protecting dominant publishing firms against competition. It is the same with patent, which grew out of the mercantilist experience of Europe in which the prince would grant one producer rights against all competitors. Both are designed to slow down innovation and drag out the process of economic development with government restrictions. For this reason, the idea that IP somehow creates an incentive to innovate is completely wrong; in fact, the reality is precisely the opposite.

The advent of the liberalism of the 18th century gradually wiped out most of these antique institutions and replaced them with competitive capitalism. But in the world of ideas, these protections remained and became worse, especially in the latter part of the 20th century. They are remnants of a precapitalist age.

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