Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Guest speaker John Kennedy made perhaps the most trenchant observation, "Copyright influences behaviour."

"Economist Debate on Copyright"? Isn't the real headline here "Economist hires medium, channels spirit of dead president"?

First, I am troubled by this "debate" having two back-to-back guests advocating a strong copyright regime. If this were a true debate, the slot used by Dale Cendali would have been used by a "copy-left" person rebutting John Kennedy's assertions. Will the Economist offer "equal time" to both sides on this debate?

Second, Dale Cendali reiterates the "BIG LIE". Her article disingenuously asserts that copyright is somehow under attack and that the content producers need to protect themselves. Seems to me, that all the copyright laws that have been recently passed have all strengthened copyright to the detriment of the content users. Has there been any recent law that has restored a right of the content user? Ms. Cendali has notmentioned one.

Also, if the content producers can lobby for stronger laws, how can Dale Cendali condemn the copy-left if they lobby for weaker copyright laws?

There is a gap between the law and the reality of copyright. The law is ever more expansive and strict. The reality is that copyright exists less and less in practice. So in a sense it is true both that copyright is under attack and that is is becoming every more stringent. Sadly I expect the gap to continue to grow - copyright will be honored entirely in the breach, but the law will become ever more strict.

By the way, there isn't "overwhelming evidence of the success of the current incentive system" although there is weak evidence of its failure.

This does sound more like a debate among copyright lobbyists than a real debate. But the Economist presumably knows which side of the debate it is on.

David, you wrote: "There is a gap between the law and the reality of copyright." Excellent point.

This raises an important aspect concerning the law and society. When laws are out-of-step with society, they will be ignored. Also, when an out-of-step law is applied it will be in an arbitrary and capricious manner. If we are to be a nation ruled by law (where the law is to be respected and evenly applied) we need to have reasonable laws that serve society as a whole. Copyright law today seems to serve special interests, not society.

I agree. However, the "war on drugs" does not give me much hope that copyright law will be changed to reflect the underlying reality. For reasons that are to me unclear we seem to have moved to a society where we pass laws to "send a message" however ineffective they might be in practice. This gives enormous discretionary power to the police, who routinely abuse that power, and leads to widespread disrespect for the law. There do not seem to be many politicians who view this as a social issue worthy of discussion, let alone worthy of campaigning on. I guess the special interest groups that want to "send the message" greatly outweigh the many.
This so-called "debate" is one-sided. SAL-e wrote: "...the debate shifted from the "Copyrights vs. Copywrongs" to "How we can save the copyrights"."

In fact, I was amazed that Mr. Fisher, who in theory is advocating that current copyright is doing more harm than good, has apparently been "lazy" in making the case that copyright is doing more harm than good. For example, he seems to buy into the faulty concept that piracy is causing a decline in music sales. He makes no attempt to evaluate the legitimacy of this proposition. I guess Mr. Fisher would blindly accept the premise that the current decline in housing prices and housing sales is caused by housing piracy! Mr. Fisher could have easily sited studies that document that piracy does not affect music sales. In a paper titled "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales An Empirical Analysis", Koleman Strumpf and Felix Oberholzer-Gee conclude that: "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero".

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