Jeff sends a link to a Von Mises Institute article that puts a positive spin on IP infringement (piracy). It reminds me of arguments from David Levine and Michele Boldrin. The idea is that innovative companies and individuals derive a substantial advantage from being first movers or from being imitated (free advertising) without IP laws, so that these laws should be gotten rid of or at least companies should realize they have more to gain than to fear from imitation.
The argument that positive effects exist from being the inventor or creator of something and from having your idea imitated sounds reasonable, but of course the existence of positive effects doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sufficient to bring us to the socially optimal state of affairs. Based on conversations I had last quarter with Prof. Jaques Lawarree, with whom I had Industrial Organization, I got the sense that the (tenuous) consensus among economists is that the current IP regime in the US is pretty good (for the US) but certainly could be better — a bit too restrictive, especially with copyright.
P.S.: A neat, somewhat recent paper of Lawarree’s.