Prices as Intellectual Property

The magic of the marketplace that Hayek proposed works because prices covey the information necessary to make efficient decisions.  I never believed Hayek, but I never supported intellectual property either.  Here we have Harvard’s bookstore acting as if its retail prices were intellectual property to prevent students from buying “efficiently.”

 “The Coop, Harvard’s Barnes-and-Noble-run bookstore, has begun to throw out students who “take a lot of notes” about book pricing, stating that their prices are “intellectual property.” Apparently, no one with a Harvard Law degree is involved in formulating this notion, as factual matters (such as pricing) are not copyrightable.”

“Coop President Jerry P. Murphy ’73 said that while there is no Coop policy against individual students copying down book information, “we discourage people who are taking down a lot of notes.” The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by — an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers — from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site.  Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.”

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