Groups Send Pro-IP Letter to Congress

An open letter supporting intellectual property was sent today to the 114th Congress.  The majority of its signatories are conservative political organizations, which is reflective of the now-Republican majority in both houses; but the letter is also signed by several left-leaning organizations as well as academics representing non-partisan study groups and think tanks.  Titled Intellectual Property Guidelines, the letter briefly outlines a rationale for the new congress to support and maintain strong IP protections, emphasizing the following eight premises:

  • IP Rights Are Grounded in the Constitution
  • IP Rights Are a Fundamental Property Right Deserving the Same Respect as Physical Property
  • IP Rights Promote Free Speech and Expression
  • IP Rights Are Vital to Economic Competitiveness
  • IP Rights Must Be Protected Internationally Through Effective IP Provisions in Trade Agreements
  • IP Rights Are Integral to Consumer Protection and National Security
  • IP Rights Must Be Respected and Protected on the Internet
  • Voluntary Initiatives to Address IP Theft Are Positive

It’s too short a letter to warrant a summary, but I will quote one statement about the Internet, which reads, “A truly free Internet, like any truly free community, is one where people can engage in legitimate activities safely, and where bad actors are held accountable.”  This is consistent with the post I just wrote about accountability, arguing that if we too eagerly embrace the anarchy of digital life, this only leads to mob rule, and mob rule only leads to some form of tyranny.

There isn’t a lot of bi-partisan support for much these days, but over the few years since I have been paying attention to these issues, the fundamental principles of Intellectual Property rights appear to maintain support among most Americans across the political spectrum.  The basic concept that any individual may own the fruit of his or her intellectual labor, that it does not belong to the mob regardless of changes in technology, still seems to resonate with conservatives and liberals alike.  And that is certainly encouraging.

© 2015, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to Groups Send Pro-IP Letter to Congress

  1. GREAT list and GREAT work. I would say we are already past mob rule of our digital life. If Silicon Valley isn’t the definition of mob rule, I don’t know what is and we should “bind them to the chains of the constitution” immediately.

  2. AudioNomics says:

    Typical 12-year-old commenters aside (you know the ones, if you’ve ever read comments (not necessarily here…) ) I think the “internet” is starting to grow up and see the land grabs for what they are.
    Especially when people get a taste of their oWN stuff being pilfered ala changes in certain photo hosting site terms/practices… they tend to chant the same message weve been saying for years… our personal property has value…& the stuff we make with our minds and own two hands is personal property..

  3. Anonymous says:

    David–
    “[T]he fundamental principles of Intellectual Property rights appear to maintain support among most Americans across the political spectrum. The basic concept that any individual may own the fruit of his or her intellectual labor, that it does not belong to the mob regardless of changes in technology, still seems to resonate with conservatives and liberals alike.”

    Until the rubber hits the road, that is.

    While people certainly might agree that copyrights or patents are a good idea in principle, infringements are so commonplace as to be nigh-universal. Even willful infringement is extremely common (including among members of Congress, according to a well-informed acquaintance of mine), as evidenced by all the bitching about it.

    I think that if you were looking to base policy on what people actually support, it would be for copyright and patent protection which was substantially reduced from what it is now, so that the mob, as you condescendingly call your fellow citizens, can enjoy the fruits of the labor of authors and inventors more freely. And why not? The rights at issue are granted, ultimately, by the mob. These rights don’t spring out of thin air or magically get created by the rights holders themselves. If they’re to be granted in the name of the mob, shouldn’t the mob have a say? Shouldn’t their interests come first?

    So what sort of copyright, patent, and trademark laws should we have? Ones that take into account both the human foibles we all have, which are realistic to expect people to adhere to, and which are based in the principle that government’s authority to govern stems from and should generally adhere to, the consent of the governed? Or ones which take an absolutist stance, which are draconic in their treatment of infringers (who turn out to be nearly everyone, the net is cast so wide), and which don’t care at all about how people actually behave and what they actually will agree to?

    • David Newhoff says:

      I’m not surprised you say that, but I disagree. I think, pro or con, there is a very small group of us who actively care at all and a substantial majority of Americans who don’t give IP a thought most days. Who can blame them? But based solely on anecdotal observation over the last couple of years, my prediction is that most Americans will uphold the fundamental principles, as stated. Few of us will watch the debate over the details, and I think it is unlikely that anyone will be able to point to any revision in the laws and call them the result of public mandate. Even SOPA, for all the bluster about it, wasn’t the substantial public response SV would like to say it is.

      “If they’re to be granted in the name of the mob, shouldn’t the mob have a say? Shouldn’t their interests come first?”

      No. Because the “mob” has the same rights as the creators, not special rights. Your argument is circular. All rights are granted by the state, but that doesn’t mean the biggest crowd always wins, which really is mob rule. Shall a white pride organization have a picnic on a black man’s property because they outnumber him, and his property rights are just some law that citizens created in the first place?

      And this narrative that copyright infringement claims are out of control because “it’s impossible not to infringe on the Internet” belongs filed among the stories about vaccines causing autism. The people may ultimately back change in IP laws based on this narrative, but they will have been misled. It happens.

      • Anonymous says:

        David–
        “I’m not surprised you say that, but I disagree. I think, pro or con, there is a very small group of us who actively care at all and a substantial majority of Americans who don’t give IP a thought most days.”

        Well, that’s what I was saying. Most people don’t care about the law, and don’t care about respecting the wishes of authors. They’ll just do what they want, and if some stumbling block is put in place, they’ll get annoyed about it, and then roll right over it, or go around it. They may, if asked, have some sort of norm about what is appropriate with regard to copyright, but it’s typically vastly at odds with the law or the desires of most authors and publishers.

        “my prediction is that most Americans will uphold the fundamental principles, as stated”

        Other than not using the work in a strongly commercial context (i.e. making copies and selling them — small businesses routinely play unlicensed music, lots of software used in workplaces is pirated, and of course it’s anything goes with how people use works in their personal lives), I don’t think they’ll uphold anything.

        “Because the “mob” has the same rights as the creators, not special rights.”

        Who said special rights? Copyrights shouldn’t restrict natural persons acting in a non-commercial context; This would easily include authors. Shorter terms also benefit authors, who can reuse pre-existing works as fodder for new derivatives. And so on. But the good of the many, lacking any important reason to the contrary here, outweigh the good of the few.

        “All rights are granted by the state”

        I would disagree.

        “Shall a white pride organization have a picnic on a black man’s property because they outnumber him, and his property rights are just some law that citizens created in the first place?”

        Are you saying that copyright is even vaguely as important as that? I don’t mind government acting against the immediate desires of the people, where it is an exceptional case in the best interests of the people. But this is fairly rare. If government becomes a paternalistic dictator it rightfully loses its legitimacy and typically fails hard. What’s next, a ban on large cups of soft drinks?

        “And this narrative that copyright infringement claims are out of control because “it’s impossible not to infringe on the Internet” belongs filed among the stories about vaccines causing autism.”

        A law that is nigh-universally broken is not made salvageable just because it is sporadically and unevenly enforced. Whether civil suits or criminal charges are brought for infringement or not does not negate the fact that infringement is trivially easy and carries stiff penalties. This is the stuff that real chilling effects are made of.

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