Intellectual property laws both help and hurt the economy. They help by incentivizing invention and creation and whatnot. They hurt by limiting the use those inventions and creations can be put to.
Intellectual property laws are basically just physical property laws that have been squeezed and distorted to try to make them apply to non-physical property. What we really need is a new type of property law that is built from the ground up to deal with intellectual property. It has massive differences from physical property. For physical goods there is a low initial cost of production, but a high marginal cost. Meaning that if I want to sell t-shirts, it's going to cost me a certain amount for every t-shirt that I sell somebody. So, I need to charge per t-shirt I sell. Physical property laws, where you pay per unit purchased, fit well with that- people are getting paid in proportion to their costs and around the time they incur those costs. Works pretty smoothly.
But with intellectual property there is a high initial cost, but virtually no marginal cost. Once I've made the song or invented the process or whatever, it costs me nothing for somebody else to use it. Physical property laws, where we charge per unit distributed, doesn't really align well with that situation. They have to incur lots of costs up from without compensation, and then the amount of compensation they eventually get may have no proportion to those costs. Where with physical property one bike has a fixed value to society, the value of intellectual property goes up the more people get access to it. We should aim for a policy that allows intellectual property to be distributed as widely as possible.
There are lots of different options. The corporations could finally get it's act together to provide more all-you-can-eat services like Netflix where you pay a reasonable fixed fee, that money gets split up amongst the content owners, and you are free to watch as much as you like. The government could set up a system where taxes pay the content creators and everybody is free to access the information. Individuals can force the change by pirating. I don't know the best way to go, but our current intellectual property laws don't fit intellectual property well. They create incentives to exclude people from consuming your product and that's just waste.
Getting back to the topic of the economic impact of copyrights and other IP rights, supporters often claim that it gives an incentive to innovate, and therefore leads to economic prosperity.
I am skeptical of this view, as history is replete with examples of innovation and great works of arts, music, innovation, etc. being produced despite the absence of strong copyright and IP laws. In addition, allowing the free flow of ideas actually leads to economic growth rather than hampering it by monopoly privileges.
For example, lets imagine how stifled human progress would be if someone copyrighted fire or the wheel.
It's somewhere in the middle so I'm not going to vote. In reality, digital piracy doesn't demonstrably harm anyone. The people who pirate are not going to buy the official versions in the first place, therefore there isn't a cent being lost because there isn't a cent to be made in the first place. Since digital media can be copied infinitely for virtually no cost, the copyright holders aren't out any money for the copies being sold. That's much different than if someone stole a truckload of CDs, it cost money to produce those CDs. It costs nothing to make millions of digital files and since it cost nothing to produce and not a red cent came out of the copyright holder's pocket and there was no money destined for said pocket, it's questionable how much validity groups like the RIAA and MPAA actually have. The only have power because they buy politicians.
I buy a ton of DVDs and I mean a ton. I've bought about 20 TV boxsets this week alone. Just came home from Walmart with another DVD today and my wife just ordered another batch online. I have well over 2000 commercial DVDs in my collection. That said though, if someone put out a movie I wanted to see at a price I thought was excessive, I'd have no problem whatsoever getting online and downloading the movie. None whatsoever. People need to *EARN* my business and that means producing a product I want to buy at a price I'm willing to spend. If they fail in either, I have no obligation to give them a red cent.
Too bad everyone today is so damn entitlement happy.