Sunday, February 29, 2004

Greenspan on Intellectual Property Rights

As usual, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan is eloquent, his position is well thought out, and his timeliness is perfect. But in this instance Greenspan is commenting on Intellectual Property, not interest rates.

At the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy this past Friday, Greenspan delivered an address on the importance of protecting Intellectual Property Rights. The full text of his speech can be found here.

He does not offer a specific remedy (as he did in the case of Social Security earlier in the week) but instead sensibly asks a set of questions:

    If our objective is to maximize economic growth, are we striking the right balance in our protection of intellectual property rights? Are the protections sufficiently broad to encourage innovation but not so broad as to shut down follow-on innovation? Are such protections so vague that they produce uncertainties that raise risk premiums and the cost of capital? How appropriate is our current system--developed for a world in which physical assets predominated--for an economy in which value increasingly is embodied in ideas rather than tangible capital?

One thing that both sides in this debate are likely to agree on (at least privately) -- currently Congress, with the Digital Millenium Act for example, is primarily taking into account the interests of lobbyists, and not thoughtfully addressing the economic issues that Mr. Greenspan articulated. Hopefully his speech will spark a broader debate on these issues.

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