This brief essay offers thoughts about the so-called if value/then right principle in copyright, a principle often used to argue that authors must pay any time that they borrow from others before them. In particular, it uses the ultimatum game to explain why the principle has appeal despite its occasional negative effects on social welfare.
After this, the essay explores whether the if value/then right principle necessarily leads to broader copyright rights. The essay argues that principle could be used to justify limits on copyright rights once society recognizes that most authors derive benefit from others before them without paying. Because it is impossible to identify all of these borrowings or to arrange payment for them, society is better off forgiving (ie making non-actionable) certain borrowings.
Yen, Alfred Chueh-Chin, Brief Thoughts About If Value/Then Right (December 17, 2019). Boston University Law Review, Forthcoming; Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No 520.