Innovation and Incarceration: An Economic Analysis of Criminal Intellectual Property Law

Author: 
Jonathan Masur
with: 
Christopher J. Buccafusco

The scope and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) laws are becoming salient, for the first time, to a wide cohort of U.S. and international communities. National and international legislation, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), have generated protests online and in the streets by people who are concerned about the expansion of IP rights. Common to each of these proposals was an expansion in the use of criminal sanctions to deter IP violations. Many copyright owners and the associations that represent them support criminal enforcement of IP, including the use of imprisonment, to combat the threat of increased IP piracy on the internet and throughout a globalized economy. Others, including a heterogeneous coalition of scholars, activists, and internet based companies like Google and Wikipedia, fear that using criminal sanctions to protect IP will expand already overgrown rights and chill valuable expressive and inventive behavior.