Does Information Beget Information?

By: Dennis S. Karjala

Using the language of mathematics, Professor Polk Wagner has recently argued that the impossibility of fully appropriating the value of information in a rightsholder leads to the surprising conclusion that expanding the degree of control of intellectual property rights will, in the long run, increase the sum total of information not subject to ownership claims and therefore available as part of the cultural and technological base on which new growth and development can occur. Indeed, he claims that open information will grow according to the formula for compound interest, where the interest rate is 100% plus or minus a factor z supposedly related to creation incentives. This article demonstrates that Professor Wagner’s mathematical analysis is simply wrong and does not lead to any of the conclusions he reaches concerning the growth of open information. It also shows both the difficulties and the dangers of the lay use of the language of mathematics in resolving complex social problems even if one does the math correctly.

Cite: 2007 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0001

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