Imagine there are two worlds: One with freely flowing information, and the other with intellectual property rights retained. What would these worlds look like?
What are the implications of free distribution? Whatever they are, that world is still available to the people in the world with information rights. The individuals with rights would just be foregoing their rights, an option that is often exercised today. It’s obvious; some information is worth more than others. Being able to price and transact for money is a basic financial tool that has been developed to make trade and specialization possible. Would we really want to eliminate this important dynamic in the next cycle of business evolution? What would be the implications of that loss? There would be no direct incentive to create valuable information; originators could benefit from the marketing effects of popularly reproduced content, but this is not the same. Clearly, an important part of the economy in the coming century will be based on software companies, media companies, research companies, and other producers of intellectual properties. Eliminating the financial viability of their products would eliminate the incentives for these companies to exist.
Allowing trade is always good. If it weren’t the preference of both parties, then the trade wouldn’t take place. Licensing intellectual property is similar: If you were willing to pay for it, it was because it was worth at least that much to you. Anticipating the value you would assign to their work, the producers invest their time and resources into a better product. What quality of intellectual property would you rather live with?
In which world would you rather live?