Is the product of knowledge still capable of contributing to long term growth prosperity - given the degree to which it is now "protected"? While some protection of knowledge product is warranted, copyrights and patents can still diminish the dispersal and competitive options of knowledge in the marketplace. Only consider for instance, how knowledge as primarily rival in use, now threatens the demise of extensive undertakings such as Google's database containing 25 million books.
One might describe knowledge product as "coming into its own" in the 20th century, as a primary contributor to wealth creation. Copyrights, patents, and of course public and private high skill employment, meant quantification and clarification for intellect as monetary value. These protections became more important as economies grew more complex, and were perceived as necessary in order to secure institutional advantage.
However, the loss of non rival knowledge for marketplace purposes, has proven a higher cost than once may have been imagined. Today, important non rival marketplace knowledge is mostly limited to "special" zones, where productive agglomeration at least makes some degree of knowledge sharing a reasonable proposition. What's more, the sharing of non rival knowledge for private tradable sector activity, could be more prevalent than the closely held knowledge of non tradable sector activity, as associated with government and non profit funding.
Once, intellect and personal ability were not so protected as marketplace functions. Until the 20th century, personal ability was associated with individuals who created autonomous and personalized spaces for the work of their choice. Gradually, that autonomy gave way to the asymmetric compensation of paid employment, for the externalized challenges of public and private enterprise. Might intellect have a chance to return to its autonomous roots in the near future? In the meantime, populations grow more compelled to march in the streets, so that the world will not fail to take note of the funding losses which might only be just getting started.
Perhaps "protection" was not such a safe bet, after all. Yet the asymmetric compensation of paid employment for high levels of skill, established a precedent which - until only recently - appeared secure as an organizational economic tool. Nevertheless, institutional skills capture, given its erratic nature, has come to mean increasing risks, for the human capital investment that is required for this organizational approach.
Further: where autonomous knowledge use was often non rival in nature, the knowledge capture of both public and private endeavour, meant little choice but to use knowledge as rival to other existing knowledge. The result? An uncertain supply side mechanism for knowledge use, which can't be relied on to provide a strong framework for knowledge gains as an integrated and ongoing process.
A different form of social cohesion is needed, which would allow the seekers of knowledge related endeavour to pursue their craft alongside more mundane responsibilities of life - with or without the traditional markers of success. The mutual self employment of knowledge use systems, would exist alongside innovative non tradable sector environments. The greatly reduced costs of these environments, would make it possible to pursue intellectual challenges without the exhaustive expenses which are required in the present. Plus, mutual self employment could also provide a safety net for a full range of skill functions, which would allow more individuals to pursue the challenges of knowledge over the course of a lifetime.
Increasingly, it is becoming difficult for governments to fund a wide range of taxpayer supported projects. This would not be such a problem, were there sufficient means to continue these vital challenges on private terms. Knowledge use systems could make it possible to pursue life's higher challenges via more secure footing in the future. What's more, this organizational method could do so, in ways which return non rival knowledge use to its natural wealth creation role.