As I have pointed out before, intellectual property does not exist for the same reasons that other property rights exist. Normal property rights exist because many resources (land, labor, computers, oil etc.) are scarce; using them reduces their usability for other people (burning gasoline in your car prevents others from doing the same). Property rights over such resources forces people to consider the opportunity cost of using them which gives property right holders incentives to use their resources economic-efficiently.

However, information (ideas, writings etc.) is not scarce; ideas have no opportunity cost. If I use the idea of an internal combustion engine to make a car, that does not reduce other people’s ability to use the idea of an internal combustion engine. The reason that intellectual property rights are useful is that they encourage the production of such information, but at the cost of causing information resources to be used inefficiently.

However, granting temporary monopolies (patents and copyrights) to information producers, is not necessarily the optimal solution; better institutations may exist. Finding ways to encourage useful information production at lower costs to information use efficiency, would be good for everyone.

Tregol Publishing is a service that makes a limited attempt to do just that.

Tregol is a service for authors to sell their works (as ebooks) but release them to the public domain (so that more people use the work) after they have received reasonable compensation. Authors who publish using Tregol specify a sale price and a World Price and/or a selling duration for their work. When the total income from book sales reaches the World Price or the selling duration elapses, the work becomes public domain.

This allows publicly minded authors to easily create a lot of public good while being compensated for the significant resources (mainly their time) they used to create their works. More discussion in Tregol’s FAQ.