We look for fairness and justice in a free society. Legal institutions shape economic behavior and guide development. What legal rules are appropriate?
In a fair and equitable society “everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone one else.” Most of us don’t want to be a “big man” or part of someone else’s parade.
If this anthem sounds familiar, you may have heard it in the song Hero, perhaps in this “shy siblings” cover featured recently on Wimp (and shared by many on Facebook). It has 9.7 million views so far.
As an economic historian, I think of these videos as a late chapter in the industrial revolution. From the late 1700s through the 1800s, technology advanced, the prices of goods and services fell, and population and wages rose. Everyday people in the industrializing countries of Western Europe and the U.S. prospered (though work weeks were long and wages low by later standards).
Steam power and textile mills dramatically lowered the price of clothing. Similar advances in agriculture increased food supplies, and transportation (railroads and steamships) dramatically lowered travel and shipping costs. As the decades ticked by millions more people avoided famines so common in earlier centuries, and gained access to food and clothing only the rich of earlier generations could enjoy.
Two centuries later technological innovations continue, and now smartphones with HD video and audio, combined with high-speed Internet and online video services like Vimeo and YouTube, open the door for “shy siblings” Nathan and Eva Leach to reach nearly 10 million viewers.
Early inventions key to the industrial revolution mostly didn’t work well enough and needed much improvement to be widely useful in industry. From steam engines to powered looms in textile mills, improvements by hundreds of innovators advanced efficiency and reliability. Patents on inventions thought to boost progress also launched to patent litigation that slowed and distorted industrial progress, especially when patents are vague and overbroad).
The marketplace is a searching process, and we don’t know the best way to protect and reward intellectual property. Google’s YouTube innovated a system for Monetizing eligible cover videos.
Songwriter/composers have rights to the lyrics and song, but what rules are just for limiting others who might want to sing the song in public or on YouTube? Each of the Hero YouTube covers are different. Nathan and Eva Leach above have their own arrangement, as do other cover singers below. That’s a good thing. The Google system allows the songwriter/composer to earn revenue from covers along with the singers (with advertising when they choose and are allowed to monetized the video).
Two more Hero covers:
So, the chance to walk and sing like everyone else. It’s a YouTube democracy where everyone can vote with their clicks and views!