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Against Intellectual Monopoly Hardcover – July 7, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0521879286 ISBN-10: 0521879280 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521879280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521879286
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,531,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One should bear a heavy burden of proof to enjoy a monopoly. Boldrin and Levine have dramatically increased that burden for those who enjoy intellectual monopoly. All economists, lawyers, judges, and policymakers should read this book." - W. A. Brock, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Boldrin and Levine, highly respected economic theorists, have produced a lively and readable book for the intelligent layman. In it, they challenge conventional wisdom about patents and argue that we would be better off without them. The book will open a fresh debate on the policy on intellectual property protection." - Boyan Jovanovic, New York University

"There is a growing and important skepticism about the fundamental rules we have used to regulate access to information and innovation. This beautifully written and compelling argument takes the lead in that skeptical charge." - Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School

"For centuries, intellectual property rights have been viewed as essential to innovation. Now Boldrin and Levine, two top-flight economists, propose that the entire IPR system be scrapped. Their arguments will generate controversy but deserve serious examination." - Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"This is an important and needed book. The case made by Boldrin and Levine against giving excessive monopoly rights to intellectual property is a convincing one. Monopoly in intellectual property impedes the development of useful knowledge. I think they make the case that granting these monopoly rights slows innovation." - Edward C. Prescott, Nobel Laureate, University of Minnesota

"Boldrin and Levine present a powerful argument that intellectual property rights as they have evolved are detrimental to efficient economic organization." - Douglass C. North, Nobel Laureate, Washington University in St. Louis

"How have we come to view ideas as if they have some physical existence that we can lock up behind a set of property rights laws akin to, but remarkably different from, those we use to protect our physical property? This is the central question in Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David Levine. The answer they come to is startling: except in a few rare cases, intellectual property protection does more economic harm than good and ought to be eliminated. The technology of digital computers and the Internet, as Boldrin and Levine show again and again, has exposed long-standing moral shortcomings of current intellectual property laws in a particularly stark way." - Stephen Spear, Carnegie Mellon University

"Boldrin and Levine expose many real and costly flaws of the U.S. system of patents and copyrights.... [and] provide support for further reforms of intellectual property law." - Richard Gilbert, University of California Berkeley, Journal of Economic Literature

Book Description

This book examines patents and copyrights. It argues that these are not necessary for innovation and are detrimental to the common good, rather than beneficial. Unlike competing titles, the book has broad coverage of both copyrights and patents and is designed for a general audience, focusing on simple examples.

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Customer Reviews

And copyright extensions should not be allowed.
Thomas H. Burroughes
This is clearly only a correlation and not a causality, but wouldn't you expect a book like this to at least touch this question?
I found the book easy to read and the examples used were pretty interesting.
Greg Burke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Skeptikos on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First, I have not read the book in this form. I read a free version online. There might be some differences; I don't know.

I was pointed to this book while arguing that intellectual property is needed to overcome a public goods problem. After reading it, I've moved from confidently supporting minimal IP rights to tentatively advocating their abolition.

The authors provide plenty of evidence and a few intriguing theoretical arguments to bolster their position.

It definitely won't be the last word on this subject, but it will widen the debate and point it in new directions. Very much worth reading, if you're interested in IP issues.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gabe on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Before continuing, you should know that I also read the free copy available online, not the print book.

The book is a simple and clear set of reasoned arguments against the existence of intellectual monopoly. Boldrin and Levine are careful to distinguish between intellectual property rights and intellectual monopoly: intellectual property is argued to be just as important as other property rights, while they eventually equate intellectual property to something close to public theft.

No difficult math or statistics are employed, so the average reader will be able to understand the arguments and agree or disagree. Each chapter also includes references to statistical and mathematical treatments of the subjects, although I wish they'd included brief outlines of these in an appendix.

The ideas themselves are impressively simple. Arguments in favor of intellectual monopoly can be made to seem very obvious. Arguments against intellectual monopoly can be a little complicated. It's easy to say that patents and copyrights are necessary to pay back authors and inventors for their risks and creativity. But how much should they be payed back? And does it occur without government intervention in the forms of patents and copyrights? Does piracy actually put the legitimate creators and inventors out of business?

One striking example from the book was the Linux company Red Hat, which distributes the open-source Linux platform and provides support. Its pirating competitors sell the same thing for cheaper (and indeed, the whole thing is available for free!) and yet Red Hat has grown and its competitors have shrunken or disappeared altogether. Boldrin and Levine point out that while something may be free, people are still willing to pay for other peoples' knowledge.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tim Miller on December 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Boldrin and Levine expose the lies of copyrights, patents, and other IP laws. Although not the most exciting read, it does do a wonderful job at presenting the case against IPLs and how society would be better off without them. In my opinion, their solutions don't go far enough, but are a step in the right direction. For any economist, politician, or socially concerned individual, this is a worthwhile read. A few highlights: The Wright Brothers were NOT first in flight. Patents actually DECREASE innovation. The medical industry does NOT need patents to make money. Many companies make a profit by not patenting and actually have "PatentLefts" which make it illegal to patent anything related to the product (see Red Hat and Linux).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By djsufran go cubs go on October 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Boldrin and Levine set out an argument that is at odds with the conventional wisdom regarding patents, copyright, and "intellectual monopoly." Traditionally such measures have been deemed necessary to encourage innovation. Using historical evidence on steam engines, aviation, agriculture, pharmaceutical companies, and sheet music, the authors demonstrate that intellectual monopoly frequently appears to stifle innovation and that the costs outweigh any benefits. They also demonstrate that innovators can still be successful without the protection of intellectual monopoly due to factors such as first mover advantage and the cost of imitating. Much of the evidence they present was quite surprising given the way intellectual monopoly is so easily accepted as a necessity.

However, there were times when the book seemed to veer into a criticism of current the current system rather than a criticism of intellecual monopoly itself. Pointing out that patents have been awarded to the "inventors" of the crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a process to make energy travel faster than light does not demonstrate why intellectual monopoly is bad. I doubt that reasonable supporters of IP would say the U.S. patent office was correct in issuing such patents, or that the patent wars and litigation the system encourages is beneficial for society.

That being said, this book is really a great read. It is informative without being inaccessible and definitely will be eye-opening to those who have always learned that the need for intellectual monopoly was a simple, undeniable fact.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Thomas H. Burroughes on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
I wanted to really give this book a higher rating but I feel in all honesty that I cannot. The problem here is that the book reads too much like a prosecuting attorney's case, starting from the premise that IP is an outrageous, rent-seeker's grab, that we could have lots of good stuff without IP, and that lots of things have indeed been invented and produced without IP. To a degree, the authors provide evidence for their case, but I also was irritated by the sometimes strident tone adopted here. And some of the examples they give of how creativity works without IP are laughable. For example, on page 30, they write: "For at least three thousand years, musical and literary works have been created in pretty much every society, and in the complete absence - in fact, often under the explicit prohibition - of any kind of copyright protection". Well, to focus on books, such things only began to be produced on any significant scale (at a time when adult literacy was negligible) after the invention of the printing press. Copying of others' literary efforts by hand would have been almost impossible outside the confines of a few learned aristocrats and monks. For a large chunk of human recorded history, the only stuff that got produced was produced in relatively tiny numbers and read by an equally relatively tiny number of people. Copyright existed once it became possible to copy in significant numbers, not before. There was no significant commercial business in printing, hence, the issue of figuring out how to make money from books did not really apply until the physical business of printing them got under way.

Okay, that does not necessarily invalidate some of the points being made, but it is striking that the authors don't mention this rather obvious point.
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