Re: Fear of Life

Robin Hanson (hanson@econ.Berkeley.EDU)
Mon, 04 May 1998 12:27:36 -0700

Hal Finney writes:
>The problem with this one is the difficulty of enforcement. It may happen
>that someone "somehow" acquires a copy of the artwork. Since he has
>not signed any contracts, he is free to reproduce it and sell it at will.
>... Another idea which has been proposed for selling IP is a "recursive
>auction". ... sells it for a lot of money to one buyer. ... selling,
>say, just two copies, to two different people. ...
>This carries on recursivelly, each person buying the book and then selling
>two copies for half the price he paid. By the time a few thousand
>people are able to read the book, it is selling for practically free,
>each person involved has had to pay only a tiny amount, and the artist
>got an adequate fee.

This seems a really dumb proposal. The problem of someone along the chain
selling it to more than two others seems *worse* than the problem of
someone who isn't supposed to sell it at all selling it. And since
competition must make the book free at the end of the chain, only people
who are in a terrible rush to read it before it gets to the end would pay
any price for it before.

And with multiple owners out there they'd all compete to get copies out
fast enough to serve those rushed customers. Within a day the book price
is free, so unless there are lots of people who really really want to read
it the first hour its out, the initial market value should be near zero
as well.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614