Re: Rampant, It was convincing until 'Strong IP'
Which history in particular?
I used the term strong to differentiate between countries where IP is open to everyone and those where it is ignored when convenient and generally only available to the state.
As regards Canon \ Nikon and Sigma, I would love it if that we true but it doesn't work that way. Sigma are gaining ground, Sony are doing insanely well (relative latecomers) and Nikon is tanking in a quite spectacular fashion. Sony larger deserves to do well. It caught Canon sleeping (it still hasn't woken up), Nikon was a victim of its own foolish choices. Sigma allegedly copying Nikon's technology (which it is worth noting differs from Canons, same effect, different method independently created) allowed them to spend less on R&D and therefore sell products with comparable features (at least now their QC is up to scratch) for less. This took chunks out of all the big players bottom lines, especially as the profit in making cameras comes from the middle of the market not the top.
Take drug companies, right now they face three markets. Pure capitalistic ones like the USA where they are pretty much free to charge what they like, regulated markets like Canada and the UK where they largely pay a single price which is either negotiated or forced and markets where their product can be copied at will. Eradicate even the first, let alone first and second, and where does the revenue to develop new drugs come from? It could come from government funding, the removal of copyright and IP in general would probably work better in a communist society. The problem then is our innate greed corrupting that society as we have seen from the history you mention.
Van Gogh is an interesting example. From a middle class background, loads of talent, nuttier than squirrel excrement or just frustrated by constant illness and died, possibly murdered \ possibly suicide, broke. His business model was to sell single images but the market then differed and his success was hardly significant. It also put his work in limited hands. Now I am and never have been anywhere near his level of talent nor have my clients been as wealthy. Ask yourself is the value of a Van Gogh in its rarity or in it's beauty? With photography making a copy is cheap and easy. In photography even a decent forger and materials would cost far more money. Would the world be a better place if there were 1000 of each of his works gracing more museums and homes? IP allows for a medium that is easily copied to be widely distributed but controlled so that the price is not too high. Peter Lik is a great photographer, but of a twat but he has a good eye, some of his work is downright fantastic. Rather than charging a million for a shot (which he has done for one image which was a single print) he can charge $2k for a limited run print and 500 or 1000 people (I forget which) can own it. I personally prefer the latter but that is only my humble opinion. If he did it for free how would he be able to afford to travel, rent helicopters & boats etc. He could still work until he starved but he wouldn't be able to produce the variety of work he does. Prints produced after death, licensed or not don't really impact the artist financially. If the thought is that perhaps if he had that as a form of publicity prior to death he may have done better than perhaps, but then again we are talking about a print of a painting rather than an exact duplicate of a photo and he would only benefit if people actually paid for more originals. If people could make a totally identical copy of his work for free he would probably be very popular, and just as broke.
Commerce may have thrived, commerce then was mostly direct trade of consumables. Technology tended to belong to a state or the state was the only person able to employ it in any significant fashion. If Egbert the Pisspoor invented something the state took that knowledge or cut off dangling parts until he turned it over to them. I think the world is a better place now. Most homes have a wealth of books, music, art etc or at least could have if they weren't spending all their money on i things. What did the average person have 4 or 5 hundred years ago? A proverbial pot. Medicine alone has advanced massively thanks to technology. Yes it is more expensive than eye of newt but it also works better. We are very close to a cure for AIDS, we have a cure for t2 diabetes and we can cure or treat a lot of cancers, not bad going when you consider the alternatives used to involve letting you die, trepanning or bleeding you.
The acceleration in technology over the past 300 years has coincided with the introduction of formalized IP and has been notably more advanced in countries with IP law. As I mentioned before, a state without money could manage without IP, but that would require its citizens to be pretty darn amazing people, practical applications of this idea have seen many starve.
Reforming IP and stopping the abuses that do occur is important. We shouldn't just say it's needed so it can stay as is, nor can we say that a book deserves longer or shorter protection than a song or randomly extend copyrights because we got bribes from that industry at the last election.
When it came down to deciding to take that career path it was very simple, I needed to invest a significant amount, I had to be sure of a fair chance of a return. I would not have considered it otherwise. A private company doesn't build a road for free, they either sell it, build it under contract or contract a right for a toll.