Intellectual Property and Innovation: Adam Mossoff Interview with Matt Ridley on “How Innovation Works”

Adam Mossoff, Chair of the Forum for Intellectual Property, Hudson Institute interviews Matt Ridley on How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom.”

Adam interviews Ridley on the role of innovation in a free economy, and the two end up having a fascinating discussion on the role of intellectual property and its relationship to innovation.

Ridley sees an overall negative correlation between innovation and intellectual property empirically today, and Adam an unequivocally positive one.

Ridley takes a utilitarian justification of patents (“made to be shared” to benefit society) and Adam takes a property rights justification (made to benefit the patent owner’s intellectual work).

Adam sees the creation of intellectual property rights, such as patents, as similar to the initial creation of physical property rights in land (such as via the Homestead Act), where those who develop the land, that was once in the commons, first get title to the land. Brilliant.

As to Ridley’s concerns over copyrights being the life of the author plus 50 (or 70) years, I think that it makes a lot of sense if you release a book later in your lifetime — say in your 70’s. You can sell the publishing rights to the book now, for the 50 plus years to someone else, who can pay you a lump sum for the expected future sales after your death, in the present. That would not be possible if copyrights ended with the death of the author. Whereas if copyright ends at your death you would not get much for your efforts for selling the rights to a book at 70. Or, imagine if copyrights ended at the author’s death and you were J.K Rowling who just released the final book in the fantastic Harry Potter series.

I’m still digesting Adam’s thoughts — which also gave Ridley some pause to mull over — which I will post on later.

The two end the conversation with:

“I’ve probably learned more from you than you have from me but it’s it’s always interesting to do that.” — Matt Ridley

“I learned a lot from your book and I really appreciated the the depth of research and effort that you put into it I really hope it has a wide readership.” — Adam Mossoff

It’s always heart-warming that two great minds who disagree, on what can be a cantankerous issue in other circles, can discuss issues in such a collegial manner.

Recommended Reading: How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom” by Matt Ridley