-- JonathanMo - 14 Sep 2015

Why do we have intellectual property laws?

Intellectual property rights involve striking a balance between the interests of the original creator, the interests of the creator's competitor(s), and the interests of the public at large. The debate in all specific instances about whether such balance should be tilted more or less in favour of the individual creator always contains various types of arguments:
  • the moral ground: focuses on the illegitimacy of somebody 'reaping what it has not sown', or upon getting a 'free ride' upon somebody else's effort;
  • the economic argument: society has an economic interest in new ideas, inventions, and innovations. If the person who creates these ideas gets no benefit from them, economic growth will be hindered: there will be a strong disincentive to innovation or new ideas.
If there is too little protection, investment may not take place: for why spend time and money developing a new concept or approach if it is more efficient to behave as a free rider? Too much protection, on the other hand, may lead to useful matter being locked up or, more probably, becoming the source of monopoly profits. Ideally, the aim is to encourage the initial decision to invest in new ideas, while thereafter providing an appropriate climate for the benefit of those ideas to spread.

Copyright law is relevant to everyone, but primarily affects authors, artists, musicians, journalists, photographers, filmmakers and broadcasters. Associated laws, such as those governing trade marks, patents or designs, are also relevant to scientists and inventors and to those who wish to exploit scientific or commercial innovations. However, anyone in small business, even those not involved in artistic fields, can benefit from a basic understanding of copyright. In the NT and elsewhere in Australia, copyright law is also important to Aboriginal artists and their communities, who have had their secret or sacred art and designs appropriated and exploited by unauthorised commercial interests.

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