Napsternomics: What’s the Most Effective Way to Protect Intellectual Property?

In the heyday of Napster, you could steer virtually any song onto your computer desktop. Without much additional effort, you could then download it onto an MP3 player or burn a CD. Both methods allowed the listener to enjoy high quality music akin to a purchased CD but without having to shell out any cash.

The critics of Napster argued that Napster was theft. And even though lovers of music loved Napster, the critics argued that a thriving, legal, accessible Napster would ultimately punish music lovers. If Napster were legal and widespread, sales of recorded music would go to zero. That would destroy the incentive to be a musician. So Napster would mean the end of the professional music community. In this view, the only reason anyone bought CDs in the heyday of Napster was because they didn’t know about it or didn’t have access to broadband. The critics triumphed in the courts and Napster is twisting in the cyberwind, dying a slow death.

Was the old world where Napster operated freely a world of theft? I don’t know. But I will argue here that the decision to shut down Napster via the courts may ultimately harm music lovers, even those like myself who never used Napster. In other words, I will argue that allowing the theft of music via Napster could have actually increased revenue for the music industry benefiting music lovers and the creators of music.

Read the full article at The Library of Economics and Liberty

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