Are creativity and intellectual property rights inversely proportional?

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Johanna Blakley‘s research concerns itself with the impact of intellectual property rights on cultural production (she also researches the entertainment industry and celebrity culture).

In this really interesting TED talk, she looks at how the fashion industry has been affected by its complete lack of IP protection (you can protect your trademark but not your design, as the courts consider clothing utilitarian and therefore impossible to protect).

Surprisingly, fashion is a vibrant, creative, ever-evolving and — above all — highly profitable field. Its deep segmentation into high-end and low-end buyers ensures that high-end suppliers don’t do all the creative work for none of the profits.

Blakley interestingly points out — using a highly effective and amusing comparative graph — that industries without intellectual property protection, such as food, cars, fashion and furniture, generate significantly higher revenues than those with stringent copyright laws, such as movies, books or music. While this may not necessarily prove anything, it does strongly suggest that it is in fact possible for creative industries to survive — and prosper — without a legal framework to protect their intellectual/creative outputs.

I think Blakley’s point is primarily that creativity and intellectual property rights may be inversely proportional; yet I found myself wondering whether profits and intellectual property rights are, too. That would be the exact opposite of the common position that ‘knowledge societies’ require strong intellectual property rights protection in order to be successful.

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