The adoption of binary code as the universal standard for globalized communications generates highly positive externalities of the kind often referred to as “network effects.” But what about meaning? What are the externalities associated with the formatting and circulation of meaning, and are they all positive? Within the digital paradigm, is it really possible to separate the notion of expression—covered by copyright—from the meanings conveyed? Isn't meaning closely related to the concept of brand? And on that assumption, how do copyright and trademark institutions work together to stimulate and promote the generation of meaningful information?
To answer these questions, we will look at how the meaningful forms of expression—the “works”—that have historically been covered by copyright generate specific types of externality, both positive and negative, giving rise to both incentive and censorship mechanisms. We will then show how the institutions of copyright and author's rights that allow the appropriation of a meaning-dependent good also confer a brand on it by identifying its sources. This leads to cross-externalities between works of expression and publishing brands, with the result that copyright and trademark institutions cannot be completely separated from each other. (JEL K11, L5, L82, B25)