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James Stern on the Myth of Nonrivalry

Season 1, Ep. 197

In this episode, James Y. Stern, Associate Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School, discusses his article "Intellectual Property & the Myth of Nonrivalry." Stern begins by describing the conventional economic theory of property and public goods, and how it structures the prevailing view of intellectual property among legal scholars in the United States. Specifically most scholars assume that property conventionally allocates scarce or rival resources, but because information is non-rival, allocation is unnecessary, and the only legitimate goal is providing an incentive for production. He argues that information actually is rival, because different people have different preferences for how it is used. Accordingly, public goods economics cannot provide an empirical justification for intellectual property, which is fundamentally an expression of normative values. Stern is on Twitter at @JamesYStern. His scholarship is available on SSRN.

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