Free Rider

Term, regarded as deprecatory, for someone who uses the economic contributions of others to the broader economy without paying for it through some corresponding contribution, e.g., taxes, fees, donated information. In essence, some intellectual property commentators say the reason for its existence is to stop ‘free riders’ from taking advantage of an inventor or author’s contribution to the world for the free rider’s own sole benefit.

In reality, the existence of a genuinely ‘free rider,’ i.e., someone who takes but contributed nothing to the general welfare is highly unlikely; although such a person could contribute little to the general welfare. The bigger issue is that an author or inventor might not contribute to the general welfare if much of the benefit would accrue to free riders and little or none to the author or inventor.

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