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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5887/the-copyrightbaseball-analogy/

The Copyright/Baseball Analogy

November 14, 2006 by

My friend Carl Horowitz writes a good piece urging Hollywood to join the film pirates rather than fight them. He is surely right about this. Film downloads cannot be stopped, but the premise of his article is that if they could be stopped, they should be stopped.

He makes an analogy to baseball. He says that defending piracy as a right is like saying that “so long as there are empty seats at a major league baseball game, there’s nothing wrong with crashing the gates. After all, my freebie neither affects the game’s outcome nor diminishes anyone’s revenues or salaries. Plus, by telling my friends about the game, I am widening the audience for baseball.”

But in the case of baseball, what is being sold is access to the stadium, where there is a scarcity of seats (in the sense that they are limited). If there were a way to watch the game without invading the physical space–some technological trick that permitted cameras to see through walls–it should surely be permitted since there is no scarcity in the moving images of players running around a field hitting a ball. On the other hand, the owners of the technology that made this possible could surely charge their customers since they are owners of the particular machines that made this possible (though anyone should be free to make such machines themselves without having to deal with patents, etc.).

In any case, the baseball analogy is closer to the movie theater, which at the proprietor is ostensibly selling rights to watch a movie but actually selling rights to sit in a seat in a theater during a period of time in exchange for which the theater agrees to show images on a screen. The consumer isn’t actually buying the images themselves. So too for DVDs: the consumer is buying the package, the technology, the availability, etc, but not actually the images on the screen, which are not scarce. The non-scarce good–the moving images–would be available to everyone in a copyright-free world. Only the means of the delivery (theater, DVD, download, or whatever) becomes a commercial product.

So I ask: am I correct that Carl’s analogy in defense of copyright doesn’t hold up?


Francisco Torres November 16, 2006 at 4:23 pm

One of the most common arguments against “piracy” (i.e. Software, apparel, movies and music piracy) is that it causes millions of dollars on losses for the companies that sell the “original” product. This argument is often repeated ad nauseam by pundits but more so by clueless reporters and anchorpeople.

The “loss” argument is pure bunk. It implies damages caused for a lost sale, which is preposterous. If we have two candy stores, and one sells gum at 5c whereas another sells a similar product for 4c, then we could have a situation where the 4c product might get more sales. Would it make sense for the first candy store to report that it suffered a “loss” out of every gum it could not sell at 5c??

This is where the IP argument falls. IP and copyright law are nothing more than hidden PRICE CONTROLS. It is nothing more than the first candystore running to Daddy-government asking it to tell the other candy store to cease and desist selling that what the 2nd candy store owns!

Anyway, every time I see reporting done on [place your favorite product here]-piracy, it always leads to bogus statistics on “losses”, as if those companies suddendly owned OUR money just because they make the “original” product!

Björn Lundahl November 18, 2006 at 4:39 am

Libertarian perspectives on intellectual property


Björn Lundahl

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