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on Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 12:50 pm by Radley Balko
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Let’s take the opportunity to ask a deeper question. Assume for the moment, and it shouldn’t be hard, that some more-or-less artificial notion of intellectual property is key for any future economic activity (as we formulate economics today). I have two questions for the Libertarians here: 1. Is there any _realistic_ way to do this that doesn’t involve state-granted and -enforced monopolies? 2. If there isn’t, is libertarianism anything but an abstract intellectual exercise at this point?
As someone who often travels between Europe and the US, I’m terrified of it, especially for the expanded border enforcement powers. I already store all my personal stuff on my home server and work-related stuff on my company server and keep my computer clear, in case it would be taken at the border. Now, I’ll be afraid to even doodle on a piece of paper, so that I don’t end up like that woman who drew a sketch of a car and then had problems crossing the border from Canada to the US. For me personally this’ll be just another nail into the coffin of foreign travel.
Someone tell these loonies that information can travel over borders much faster and much easier than inside physical storage devices. I’m already annoyed by conduct at the border, and this would amount to preventing cross-border workers from going back and forth freely enough.
I guess it’s scary in the sense that it will give governments one more way to persecute people on flimsy grounds. However, if you’re worried that actual information flows will be seriously impaired, I can assure you that these efforts will be ineffectual. The copyright warriors may be able to keep pirated video and music sources from appearing in (say) the first page of your google search results, but they can’t do much better than that.
I’m glad that some bigger blog-names are finally starting to notice ACTA. The confidentiality clause preventing release of the terms bothered me even before the terms began to leak, but the blog I occasionally write for has too small a readership to get the word out effectively.
2. Is “abstract intellectual exercise” supposed to be some kind of epithet? Libertarianism is an abstract intellectual exercise I guess, and it is so whether we make your assumption or not. But certainly no more so than “future economic activity (as we formulate economics today)”.
2. Libertarianism can come down on either side of the argument, the businesses right to protect its interests with contracts, and the individuals right to reproduce or protect their legally purchased media.
I don’t speak for libertarianism, but here is my take. A certain degree of protection of intellectual property is needed to maintain competitiveness. Patent laws seem like a good yardstick in this regard. With 20 years given to the owner of a patent before it becomes public appears to be a fair amount of time for an inventor to maintain a monopoly on a product or technique.
How does that translate to copyrights? Well it seems to me to be the same thing. Its intellectual property, rights to an idea or concept, in this case a book, movie, or recording. However as it stands copyright law now extends to 125 years (in the late 1800’s it was only 14), and every time any major copyright product comes close to expiring the owners of those copyrights lobby congress for an extension. Essentially copyrights have become indefinite in this country because they will always be extended and nothing new will be added to the public domain, unless an author specifically allows it.
That is the insidious difference. Patents expire, but because the physical marketplace always changes they rarely outlive their influence. Copyrights on the other hand deal with stories and characters, they are cultural. And given the current state of affairs this means that a small number of corporations have a growing stranglehold on the culture of America. Think of all the characters that are tied up by copyright, think of all the stories that legally cannot be written because some group arbitrarily claims to own a character. Far too many companies make their money of off the stories of long dead people, that I don’t think they can rightly claim ownership to. I mean do the executives at Disney have any more right to say who can make a Mickey Mouse cartoon than you or I do? By what right can they claim ownership, other than that it is enforced by the state? They had nothing to do with the creation or popularization of the character, why should they have control over the character and no one else? I would argue that characters like Mickey Mouse have long since passed into public domain, they are part of the public consciousness and it is unjust to grant some entities a monopoly on them.
I think a 20 year copyright should be reinstated. There is the argument that this could hurt many companies, but to be honest it will only hurt those incapable of innovation. And really its not worth tying up the rest of societies hands just to allow an extreme minority to maintain an unquestioned position of privilege in the marketplace of ideas.
So the march towards corporate serfdom just entered a well-paved downgrade, huh?
Who would have thought that the entities with the most money (despite their constant outbursts about how much money they’re not making) could lobby to turn the world’s various police and border forces into their various police and border forces.
Welcome to the United States of America, a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal. (replace with any media conglomerate, it still works)