IP Law Should Encourage Innovation, Not Protect Incumbents

Great piece from John Kay about the state of the intellectual property debate in the UK:

The Hargreaves report on intellectual property (PDF), published last week, is a landmark in the evolution of British policy. Ian Hargreaves concludes the existing intellectual property regime, far from being a spur to innovation and growth, gets in the way. The contrast between this document and the paper on the digital economy Lord Carter prepared for the last Labour government could hardly be more marked. Mr Hargreaves deplores the way government policy has been led by business interests and not evidence of its effects. The Carter report, unintentionally, illustrated his point in every chapter. […]

As the commercial market is being transformed, anyone who thinks that the policy challenge is to restrict internet piracy has missed the point. Such thinking confuses, as Carter did, the development of successful businesses with the welfare of the industry’s established large companies. The result is that UK companies, and the UK government, are now no more than bit players in a play staged on the other side of the Atlantic. The UK government is at least more enlightened than the European Commission, which seems to be playing in quite another show – one where trade associations and naive artists are the only audience.

That’s all quite right. We’ll know that the time has come to strengthen IP protections for musicians when we start observing some kind of shortage of new bands and new recordings. And it’s the same across the board. Have people stopped writing books?