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Posted by On Feb 26, 2009

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Posted by StarryGift On Mar 20, 2009


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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Copyright Harassment: Where are the Economists or Proponents of Small Government?

A NYT article about a company, Righthaven, that enforces copyrights on the web should have included some comments from economists and conservatives who oppose big government. The specific case highlighted in the article involves a college blogger who posted a picture of an airport security agent doing a pat-down. The Denver Post claims copyright ownership of the picture.

A honest economist would have called attention to the enormous waste in this action. The use of the picture had a value that was almost certainly less than a thousand of a cent, yet this suit could involve thousands of dollars of economic costs in the form of legal fees and court time. It would be difficult to imagine a more wasteful form of government action. (This is a government action, because it is the government that is assigning control over use of this image to the copyright holder.)

Proponents of small government should also be appalled. In this case the government is authorizing private individuals to harass college kids over their efforts to make a point about an issue they care about.

However the NYT did not point out either aspect of this issue. Of course there are far more efficient ways to support creative and artistic work than the copyright, which have their roots in the late Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the NYT and other media outlets almost never mention any alternative mechanism of support.

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