OII SDP 2007 (XXVII): The Effect of IP Rights/Incentives on the Motivational Culture of Innovative Activity

Lead: Talha Syed

The main criticism Talha Syed makes is that it should be possible to shift the debate from the established mainstream (economic) discourse (for or against, but inside the system) and try and move towards new mental maps, new ways of thinking.

Premises of conventional approach

  • homo aeconomicus: man is naturally narrowlyh self-regarding material gain
  • preferences fixed, invariant
  • policy is neutral

Premises of most critics

  • heterogeneous rather than unitary motives
  • but still relatively exogenous to policy
  • policy should be neutral (efficiency)

Further departures

  • heterogeneous
  • but context-sensitive, exogenous to policy, culture
  • normatively, neutrality untenable, undesirable

Pluralist motives

  • intrinsic: internal drives and ambitions; enjoyment
  • social: activity’s social contribution; peer approval/credit; social recognition/esteem
  • extrinsic: prosperity, wealth; social status, hierarchy; power

We should ask ourselves whether it’s true that once you throw money on the table, the economical / homo aeconomicus / extrinsic reasons to create do crowd out the other two categories of motives. It usually has been stated that yes, but there are no serious positive analysis about this. Yochai Benkler might do right in describing what’s happening in the generative Internet, but he somehow manages to shape the whole thing into Liberalism. But, should it have to be this way? Is this the only way? Is there no alternative?

Context Sensitive

What mix of motives flourishes depends on which motives are:

  • socially acknowledged, valued
  • expressed or pursued by peers, rivals, leaders
  • reinforced or undermined by institutional signals

And maybe there’s some room for policy makers and policies to reinforce or give incentives to one or another motive depending on the context given.

Open Science

  • Sustaining foundational, exploratory research: markets under-incentive for these; provides a somewhat de-centralized alternative to state direction
  • Relatively rapid dissemination: rapid growth; cutting down on reducing duplicative failures and successes
  • Quality controls: less internal conflicts of interest; no property barrier to peer review (and strong incentives for it)
  • Effective and cost-effective: scientists being motivated partly by pleasures of inquiry and desire for credit and satisfactions of social contribution contributes to effective performance (Henderson & Cockburn, 2001); also is cost-effective
  • Intrinsic virtues of these motivations: sustaining such a a motivational culture is arguably worth valuing intrinsically, for its own sake, as part of what constitutes an attractive scientific culture and surrounding society

Crowding out

Raising money incentives can dampen non-monetary motives:

  • undermining social meaning of a practice
  • undermining responsibility, self-direction
  • undermining self-esteem
  • reducing overall gain from activity by making unavailable those benefits which simply can’t co-exist with money payment
  • corroding non-monetary virtues

My reflections

  • I think that for those policies to foster other motivations, we should somehow let entrepreneurs understand those policies as not ways to benefit dumping of one’s market. Actually, most reinforcements of IP rights/regulation are just reactions to, I guess, such a feeling.


Frey, B. S. & Jegen, R. (2001). “Motivation Crowding Theory”. In Journal of Economic Surveys, 15(5), 589-611. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lerner, J. & Tirole, J. (2000). The Simple Economics of Open Source. NBER Working Paper No. 7600. Stanford: NBER. Retrieved July 10, 2007 from http://www.people.hbs.edu/jlerner/simple.pdf

More info

  • Henderson, Rebecca; Cockburn, Iain M. (2001) “Publicly Funded Science and the Productivity of the Pharmaceutical Industry” In Adam B. Jaffe, Scott Stern, Joshua Lerner (Eds) Innovation Policy and the Economy. Cambridge: The MIT Press


SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “OII SDP 2007 (XXVII): The Effect of IP Rights/Incentives on the Motivational Culture of Innovative Activity” In ICTlogy, #46, July 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from https://ictlogy.net/review/?p=593

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4 Comments to “OII SDP 2007 (XXVII): The Effect of IP Rights/Incentives on the Motivational Culture of Innovative Activity” »

  1. En esta línea creo que sería interesante que leyeras alguno de los artículos de Ryan & Deci sobre la Self-Determination Theory. También la usa Yogesh Malhotra en sus argumentaciones sobre el uso de ICT. Puedes extraer ideas en torno al rol de la incentivación económica frente a la motivación intrínseca.
    Por cierto, gracias por compartir todo esto con el planeta. Tienes mi admiración, compañero ;-)

  2. Thanks for advice… what you think of, say:

    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000) “Self-Determination Theory: A View from the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation” In Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 312-318

    Malhotra, Y. and Galletta, Dennis F. (2004) “Building Systems that Users Want to Use” In Communications of the ACM, 47, 12, December 2004, 88-94

    Good to get started with?

    Muchas gracias!

  3. Gracias, they look terrific.

    We’ve actually dealt with this statement la mezcla de motivación extrínseca que incorpora el dinero estropea en buena parte lo que debiera estar basado en motivación intrínseca [e.g. money can spoil peer contribution] several times these days.

    Thanks! :)

    (something to read these holidays… as if I hadn’t bought enough books at Harvard Coop… ;)

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