The Knockoff Economy: How Copying Benefits Everyone

What do you think of copy-cats? Are they stealing property from their creator? Co-author of the book, The Knockoff Economy, Kal Raustiala, says no.

“A lot of innovation grows out of imitation,” Raustiala tells Reason TV’s Paul Detrick. “So it’s not so much riding on the coattails as it is standing on the shoulders.”

Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman write in their book that when you look at the inner workings of football, fashion, food, as well as many other industries: When people have the freedom to knockoff or copy items, creators and consumers benefit.

“Every time a college coach or a pro coach comes up with a new formation, that is going to be copied, if it’s successful, by their opposition,” says Raustiala.

About 9:23

Shot by Sharif Matar and Mark Wagner. Edited by Paul Detrick

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  • strat||

    This is timely. Not one click after Reason served me an ad for knockoff (I'm sorry, the PC term is "replica") watches, this article pops up. How preemptive of you.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "But, I mean, typically when something is good for lawyers, it's probably not good for everybody else."

    He copied that sentiment from yours truly.

  • Paul.||

    Anyone else getting the sense this is a slow news day?

  • ||


  • ant1sthenes||

    Ooooh, pirates versus objectivists. Fight, fight, fight!

  • The Derider||

    The examples where innovation occurs without intellectual property laws all have something in common-- low sunk costs to innovate. Fashion designers and football coaches don't face significant research and development costs. They can innovate with a pen, paper, and their mind.

    This is untrue in arenas like pharmaceuticals and blockbuster movies, where innovation requires multi-million dollar investments and months or years of production. The first mover advantage doesn't exceed those huge costs-- temporary monopoly power does.

  • Kroneborge||


    Not to mention people should have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labor, whether that's an invention, or a work or art

  • ||

    Utilitarianism is for kids.

  • Keith3D||

    If your strategy leaves an easy opening for a strategic move by your competitors which nullifies your advantage (for example by choosing to put your product into a form trivially easy to copy in order to save yourself some overhead costs), this is your own foolishness robbing you of the fruit of your labor.

    If someone makes a copy of your idea, that copy is the fruit of their labor not yours. Change your business model to make your products harder to copy if you don't want your competitors' labor to produce fruit quite so easily.

  • Redefiler||

    Spoken like a worthless bacteria. Keith, the incredible neutered, beta male now in 3D!

    When someone steals your idea with their labor, it's called crime. Its like when someone uses their energy to pry open your front door , load up their van with your stuff and drive off with it. Again it's called stealing, and there's nothing new or innovative about it.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    You mean they actually snuck in at night and pried open your skull and stole your idea with some kind of brain scanning device?

    I agree, that would be a crime. More trespassing and assault than theft, but still a crime.

  • Redefiler||

    Ah, another torrent aficionado...

    New ideas are still things, and since things can have value, therefor they are valued/protected as property. Further, using your brain is an expenditure of effort, and that's billable time, my good chum. Both property and labor are infringed with IP crimes.

    Its a much greater value to human progress that ideas are formally recognized as valuable, because it encourages people to use their brains and think of new stuff. If ideas are free, they have no value, and therefor smart, creative, hard-working people would have no value to society.

    Curious that If intellectual property didn't have value, why do lazy parasites like yourself, indulge in the mental gymnastics as weak moral cover for it's theft?
    If you really believed that ideas and other's brain work should be free to all, and the subtext of your post being that you lack desirable (profitable) idea, then you should be mowing my lawn for free. Since you don't shit gold, oil, iPhones or desirable works of commercial art, your combined idea and brain work caps out at yard work. Now get busy, lots of needy lawns out there.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    He looks like a copy of Tim Allen.

  • nike001||

    One hour we do not speak. I thought a lot. Finally, still feel like saying it's the fox is not possible, we Cheap Football Cleats can not find evidence that the gray-haired woman does not show fox, but no evidence, just to prove that the fox can transform himself into a cheap ugg boots for women white-haired woman. And to compare with each other, or scientific concepts prevail.

  • nikea||

    As a potential congressman, Massie supports the elimination of the Federal Reserve and wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulation package. He favors both lower taxes and balanced budgets, helping him earn the backing of the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican Liberty Caucus.

  • nikea||

    Running for office in 2008, he said he supports the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs.” He was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” He told an Oregon newspaper that he would stop the Drug Enforcement Agency’s raids on local pot clinics.

  • stayreal||

    training of probably the most respected names in music and electronics!The Studio Beats by Dr Dre is done to allow the listener hear the music how a artists and producers would

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