Innovation: Pioneering or Tweaking

Thomas Edison in LabOn the Freakonomics blog, Kal Raustiala of UCLA and Chris Sprigman of University of Virginia Law School wrote about Geeks and Tweaks. They explain that tweaking is a good thing, but the copyright law doesn’t allow it. A “pioneer” or inventor creates a new product or service. People like Thomas Edison are the ideal lone genius who develops new ideas. Tweakers change a pioneer’s work and improve it for the better. In the article, the professors use the example of programming contents to show how contestants can build on an existing solution to a problem and improve it.

Currently, Copyright law rewards you for being a pioneer and penalizes for being a tweaker. You can’t tweak a pioneer’s work and sell it. The law also makes it very hard for you to even get permission to tweak someone else’s work. Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman suggest that the copyright law should change to benefit both pioneers and tweakers. Shouldn’t both pioneers and tweakers benefit from their innovative ideas?

*Image from Free-Stock-Photos