Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Balancing Innovation and Intellectual Property

"For industries ranging from software to pharmaceuticals and entertainment, there is an intense debate about the appropriate level of protection for intellectual property," write Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf in the abstract to their recent paper: "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis" (Journal of Political Economy, 2007, vol. 115, no. 1). Their data and analysis show that file-sharing and downloads from peer-to-peer networks have had an impact on declining record sales "that is statistically indistinguishable from zero." (JPE online requires a password. Here is an earlier version of their paper.)

This information is relevant to governments and businesses in developing countries as they consider how to capitalize on creative and cultural industries as engines for growth. Caribbean economist Keith Nurse believes that developing countries have a comparative advantage and window of opportunity in these fields.

Finding a new balance that encourages innovation, respects intellectual property, and delivers fast results is especially important in the global health sector. Thomas Pogge argued in the first issue of Policy Innovations that new incentive structures could be designed to meet these goals.

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