Copyright Policy and Economic Doctrines

Robert D. Atkinson November 26, 2012
November 26, 2012
Economic doctrines lead to different views of optimal copyright policy.

For many years, the debate over copyright policy in advanced industrial nations was marked by a relative lack of partisan and ideological conflict. There was a general consensus that relatively strong copyright protection spurred the development of content and was both pro-innovation and pro-consumer. But in the last decade, this has changed markedly, as was so clear with the heated debate over PIPA/SOPA last year. However, copyright policy debates are largely grounded in economic doctrines. 

Despite what many economists claim, economics is not a science; and in this case intellectual approaches to the issue of information industries and copyright differ substantially. These approaches reflect differences in economic doctrine among economists, policymakers and others. Based on these doctrines, different people stress different goals and values and work under different assumptions about how information industries and copyright work.

This report postulates and describes four competing economic doctrines: conservative neoclassical, liberal neoclassical, neo-Keynesian, and innovation economics. It explains how each doctrine leads to different views of optimal copyright policy and how there is no scientifically optimal copyright policy; any policy position reflects different goals, assumptions and values.