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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Politics and IP

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


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Hard to tell whether this is good or bad...

From Victor Zatsepsin in Russia:

Perhaps it would be interesting to know for you, that there is an initiative outspoken by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev recently, according to which Russia offers to create a worldwide internet database of intellectual property. The main principles of this undertaking remain unknown, but according to the Vedomosti article, this archive will provide ability to tag content as available for free, on royalty base or differently. Here's more of his vague statements:

Medvedev to make internet copyright proposals 'soon'

I believe that the Russia's case could be enlightening in many ways, since in fact there is no strong royalty-based economy, for instance, in books' or film industry.

He seems to want to water down copyright in the rest of the world in exchange for strengthening it in Russia. I am doubtful that the copyright monopolists are going to have anything of it.

Its not just the corporations with a vested interest in the 'Protect IP Act'

Here is the text of a message that was recently sent to the entire membership of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) -

Dear AFTRA Member:

I'm writing to you today both as the National President of AFTRA and as an individual who, just like you, has dedicated my life to the art, craft and business of entertainment and media. I am a professional performer who earns my living and health and retirement benefits by acting, performing voiceover work, doing narration for industrials and working on other types of projects. Like for many of you, entertainment and media is my career - it is my livelihood - and right now, my career and my livelihood are under attack, and so are yours.

The digital theft of movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows - what has often been called "piracy" - is the biggest threat the entertainment community has ever faced, and 2.4 million of us who make a living in entertainment need to join together to fight back.

The term "piracy" doesn't do justice to the problem; this is THEFT on a massive scale. Movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows are illegally downloaded or streamed at least 500,000 times every day. Millions of counterfeit DVDs are sold each year. International criminal operations masquerade as legitimate sites, appear in search engines and even accept credit card payments, confusing and siphoning off our audiences. These thieves steal money out of our pockets and deprive us of the earnings we need to qualify for critical health insurance and retirement benefits. In fact, digital theft is so serious that it is one of the crimes investigated by U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement, along with human trafficking, money laundering, weapons smuggling and narcotics.

The impact on each one of us is real. The digital theft of movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows reduces our residuals and royalty payments, as well as our retirement and health benefits, and more than 140,000 entertainment-related jobs have already been lost to content theft. Every film, sound recording, videogame, audiobook and television show that is stolen represents a terrible loss to all of the people who created it, reduces funds available for future work and reduces creative and employment opportunities for AFTRA members and everyone else works on a production or sound recording.

Almost two years ago now, Delegates to the 2009 AFTRA National Convention in Chicago unanimously passed a resolution making the fight against digital theft our highest legislative priority. Since then, AFTRA has worked with DGA, IATSE, SAG, MPAA, and from time to time also AFM and the Teamsters to help raise awareness among lawmakers in Washington, DC, about the real danger this threat presents to our livelihoods and to the American economy. We have also been working closely with Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator appointed by President Obama in September 2009, to help her understand just how grave this threat is to the United States. We must devleop sound regulatory and public policies to protect creative content and ensure that the people and industries that produce the uniquely American product continue to thrive.

We are making good headway in D.C. Latest proof of our success lies in the bipartisan support for new legislation introduced on May 26, 2011: the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act was unanimously passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The PROTECT IP Act is critical to efforts to aggressively combat the proliferation of foreign "rogue websites" that steal U.S.-produced content and profit from it by illegally selling it to the public.

But, remember: this is just a step forward in what will be a long battle against criminals who are stealing our work. To be successful, we need more than just strong laws: we need a fully engaged community of entertainment and media professionals - AFTRA members like you - to stand up, make our voices heard and do our part to stop digital theft.

We pour our hearts into making the movies, music, videogames, audiobooks and television shows that the world loves. Entertainment is one of America's most important economic engines. The theft of creative content must be stopped, so we are redoubling our efforts.

AFTRA is on the battle lines against digital theft with our sister unions, as well as producers and other stakeholders in the media and entertainment industries. This is bigger than any single group alone. So in the coming months, you'll be getting more information about digital theft and its impact on our jobs and creativity. If you would like to get involved or learn more about ways you can help protect our future, please email ProtectMyWork@aftra.com or call and we will contact you with information about how you can help in this effort.

Entertainment and media is changing fast, and we are all working to find new ways to share our creativity with audiences here at home and around the world. Please watch for regular updates and information about what AFTRA is doing, and what you can do to join the fight.

Sincerely,

Roberta Reardon

National President AFTRA, AFL-CIO

Stephan Kinsella Bait

Stewart Baker over at Volokh.com wonders why most libertarians have laid down when it comes to their willingness to tolerate the current copyright regime:

Conservatives and especially libertarians seem like a cheap date on this issue. You'd think libertarians would have been in the forefront of objecting to governmental intrusions into our lives at the behest of a special interest let alone the creation of a new class of quasicriminals, defined as more or less everyone who entered high school after 1996, who can be investigated and prosecuted whenever the government or some member of industry decides that they are too troublesome.

But no. For a lot of libertarians, judging by the comments to David's post, all the RIAA has to do is call its new government-created entitlement a form of property, and, presto bingo, it's sacrosanct.

Come to think of it, maybe I can persuade readers here that TSA's new enhanced security measures are just fine as long as we enforce the rules by giving all the passengers on the plane a "property" right not to travel with people who refuse body imaging and enhanced patdowns. Instead of relying on oppressive government regulation, we'd just let the passengers collect millions in "statutory damages" from noncompliant travelers.

Read the full context of his thoughts here:

http://volokh.com/2010/11/20/girl-talk-and-intellectual-property/

Once Again, the Copyright/Trademark Tail Tries to Wag the Internet Dog

David Post over at Volokh.com has a must read concerning the latest attempt by Congress to restrict the way the Internet operates in order to protect Big-IP.

As he explains:

It's awful on many fronts. It would allow a court to effectively shut down a site operated out of Brazil, or France, without any adversary hearing (unless, I suppose, "the domain name" itself comes into court to argue the case) or any reasoned determination that the site actually is engaged in unlawful activity. There is a name for that in our law: "prior restraint," and we don't like them even in cases where truly compelling governmental interests are at stake, let alone where the purpose is merely to protect the rights of copyright and trademark owners.

Check out the full details here:

http://volokh.com/2010/11/13/once-again-the-copyrighttrademark-tail-tries-to-wag-the-internet-dog/

[Update] Popular Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds writes: "If I have to choose between getting rid of copyright and getting rid of free speech, I'll say goodbye to copyright. The folks at Big Content, and their shills like Leahy, seem to want to make me choose."

NAS and Copyright

From: Mullins, Daniel On Behalf Of Merrill, Steve Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 4:38 PM To: Mullins, Daniel Subject: First Public Meeting of the Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era

Dear Colleague:

We have scheduled the first meeting of the NAS-STEP committee to develop a research agenda on the impact of copyright law and policy for Thursday & Friday October 14-15, 2010, at the Academies' Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., NW. We invite interested parties to present their views on the committee's task in an open session Friday from 8:30-Noon in room KC 100. We encourage presentations that identify priority issues in copyright policy that the committee should consider addressing. Some but by no means all of the possibilities are enumerated in the project prospectus attached, including * limitations and exceptions to copyright including fair use * secondary liability for infringement * technology mandates * statutory damages and * access to publicly supported scientific research

To discuss this invitation and/or schedule a time on the agenda, please contact me at an early opportunity. Project sponsors will be given their preference of time to the extent possible.

Sincerely,

Stephen A. Merrill, Ph.D. Executive Director Science, Technology, and Economic Policy The National Academies 500 Fifth Street, N.W. KC574 Washington, DC 20001 Tel. 202-334-1581 Fax 202-334-1505 Mob 202-731-1782 Email smerrill@nas.edu Web www.nas.edu/step

Against Monopoly

A nice post by the Economic Logician (well I think it's nice since he's nice to us).

Have you noticed how the grip on intellectual property law keeps expanding: copyright periods lengthen, the scope of patentable "innovations" widens, and the enforcement of intellectual property become the topic of international trade negotiations. But should we expect this?

The post is here.

Climate Change Treaties Suddenly Become Less Of A Priority Once The IP Status Quo Is Threatened

I don't intend to use this forum to get into the debate over global warming/climate change. My personal views on the subject have been aired elsewhere in the blogosphere.

However, it should be noted that the Democratically controlled U.S. House recently voted by large margins to oppose any global climate change treaty that weakens the IP rights of American "green technology." This effectively demonstrates where the true priorities have been all along with regards to the "climate change" issue.

Details here.

(I note that the House is 'Democratically controlled' merely to help illustrate the fact that IP protection currently has well entrenched bipartisan support among the political establishment - overriding more partisan divides that might otherwise take place concerning environmental legislation. I have no doubt that this particular vote would have been the same had the Republicans been in control.)

The European Elections

Four more days to the European Parliamentary Elections, and the Pirate Party in Sweden looks set to get at least one seat, possibly two, out of Sweden's total share of 18 seats.

It should be said, though, that the opinion polls are notoriously unreliable. In one opinion poll, 45.6% said they had not decided which party they would vote for. Some have also argued that the Pirate Party numbers are inflated since the party is supported mainly by young men, who typically don't vote to the same extent as others. On the other hand, the Pirate Party's supporters may be more motivated than others to vote in this election.

The Pirate Party's main proposals are shorter copyright lengths, abolished patents, and increased privacy protection.

IP Vices and Crimes

Fantastic post by Jeff Tucker at Mises Blog:

***

IP Vices and Crimes

March 18, 2009 8:51 AM

The 18 or so articles I've written about "intellectual property"--elaborating on a book I consider to be a seminal work of our epoch, Against Intellectual Monopoly--generated floods of email like I've never seen on any topic. The thing that gets people going is the conclusion: in a free market, there should be no legal grants of patent or copyright.

What many people do--and this is rather depressing from the point of view of a writer--is seize on the conclusion, ignore the reasoning and arguments, and then attempt an instantaneous, arm-chair refutation.

It always goes something like this: "Oh, you are telling me that I could just steal this article that you wrote, even put my name on it, sell it and take the money, and there would be nothing wrong with doing that?"

Some go even further to actually do this: put their names on it, post it somewhere, and send me the link.

I think precisely what you are thinking: "What a jerk!"

I'm not sure what other kind of response they expect from me. They must really think I will say: "Oh, this is so shocking! I had not considered that someone might actually do this to me if we got rid of the U.S. Copyright Office! My goodness, this kind of thing cannot be tolerated. I was completely wrong in everything I said. I too am grateful to the state for all it does to protect my intellectual creations and my good name."

Sorry to say, this is not my response. My detailed response actually goes as follows: "If you do that in a free society, you will not be arrested by the police or experience physical coercion blessed by official mandate. However, everyone is free to regard you as a poseur, a wretch, a menace to society, and wholly lacking in credibility. If having a good reputation counts to you, it's probably not a good idea to pretend to have written something that you have not in fact written."

The difference here comes down to a wonderful distinction that was made by Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. He was careful to explain the difference between a vice and a crime. A crime involves aggressive force or threat of aggressive force against another person or privately owned property. A vice, however, is a much larger category of behaviors that don't involve invasion of person or property.

Vices can involve lying, being nasty to others, eating like a pig in public, abusing oneself with drugs or liquor, failing to shower and thereby stinking to high heaven, swearing in public, betraying benefactors, rumor mongering, displaying ingratitude, not keeping commitments, being a shopaholic, being a greedy miser, failing to do what you say you are going to do, making up stories about other people, taking credit for things you didn't do, failing to give credit where it is due, and other things along these lines.

In a free society, vice is control through decentralized social enforcement of social, ethical, and religious norms. The great problem of statism is that it turns vices into crimes, and then when the law is repealed, people forget that there are, after all, certain social norms that nonetheless need to be upheld and will be upheld once society is managing itself rather than being managed by the state.

Consider the case of classroom plagiarism, for example. A teacher wrote to me with a concern that the repeal of intellectual property law would make it more difficult to punish students for turning in work that claimed to original but was actually copied from elsewhere. I pointed out that the police and courts are not involved in the enforcement of classroom rules now, so why would a change in federal legislation be any different? Plagiarism is still plagiarism.

IP law has really had the effect of distorting our society's sense of all of these matters. It has made everyone too unwilling to admit our dependence on imitation and emulation as institutions that permit and encourage progress. It has made people too shy to copy the success of others and admit to doing so. Writers, artists, entrepreneurs all live with this weird burden of expectation that everything they do must be completely original and they must never draw from others sources. It's preposterous!

On the other hand, we are too quick to credit the state for preventing the mass outbreak of old-fashioned vice. Even without copyright and patent, some kinds of behaviors and practices will remain shoddy, unseemly, ungracious, conniving, and social unacceptable. What, for example, would you say about a local author who claim to write a new play that turned out to be written by Shakespeare? Doing this is perfectly legal right now. But the person would be regarded as a lout and a fool for the rest of his life.

Hence, the repeal of "intellectual property" law does not mean some sort of crazed free-for-all chaos in which no one can be entirely sure of anyone's identity, creations, who wrote what, what company did what, where credit is due, what one's commitments are, and the like. What we will gain is a great sense of our moral obligations to each other.

And in the absence of the state's grant of monopoly privilege, we will become ever more vigilant in giving credit where it is due. You still have to be a nice person who acts with a sense of fairness, equanimity, and justice, as conventionally understood. If you don't, the state will not crack your skull, but you will lose something profoundly important.

In other words, in absence of IP, we gain a greater sense of the distinction between what is vice and what is crime, and a better means for dealing with both.

Monsanto v. Google on Patent Reform

In this post, Monsanto's General Counsel disagrees with Google's Head of Patents and General Counsel, who had complained about the risks companies like Google face from huge damage awards in patent lawsuits.

I am so tired of patent lawyers and companies with vested interests making the tired old argument that we should not "weaken" patent protection because it's needed to promote and protect innovation--without ever once even alluding to the fact that these purported benefits have an accompanying cost, much less demonstrating that the cost is worth the benefit received. (See my There's No Such Thing as a Free Patent; What are the Costs of the Patent System?)

I'd much prefer simple, honest calls for protectionism: Monsanto wants patent protection to remain strong, because they think it benefits their own company--regardless of the overall effects or costs on other companies or the economy as a whole. Fine, an honest plea for redistribution of wealth.

Note how Monsant just brushes off Google's costs and fears:

"I respectfully disagree with the recent blog post by Google's Head of Patents and General Counsel, commenting on the perceived risks from damage awards in patent cases. Monsanto has faced billion dollar damage claims as a wrongly sued patent defendant and also knows the true benefits from avoiding the encouragement of willful infringement based on a smaller party's calculated gain in the face of limited risk of a meaningful award of damages if infringement is established. With full knowledge of all these issues and our substantial alignment with Google and the information technology industry over the legitimate need to curtail patent trolls and a myriad of other concerns - we encourage thoughtful reform."

Amazing that he just says he "disagrees" with Google's perception of risks from high damage awards in patent cases--even as it admits Monsanto has faced billion dollar damage claims in wrongful patent suits. Does it occur to this gentleman that perhaps not every company is comfortable facing the risk of wrongful billion dollar patent claims?

[Cross-posted at Mises Blog]

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