On Monday I did the first half of my catchup work. Now we’ll do the second half. And one of the big issues coming up is copyright. Over the last thirty years, copyright in America has been radically reformed. While traditionally it worked as patents still do work, as a temporary grant of monopoly enforceable in civil courts, we’ve gradually moved them into the realm of criminal law enforced indefinitely. And I believe we’re gone too far in that direction.
So when I hear about the COICA, a new copyright and counterfeiting law promoted by the Obama administration, I’m concerned. At a fundamental level, the COICA would give too much power to government to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist. No, copyright is not at serious risk in America today. It is simply certain business models that are failing, and it is not the place of government to try to prop them up.
It is true that the RIAA’s members are not as successful as they have been in the past, with music revenue down almost by 50% from their highs. But the blame for that cannot rest with the Internet. The blame lies with the RIAA for failing to act. If we assume that it is not a coincidence that the RIAA’s peak came with the launch of Napster, the question still remains to be answered why it took until took until 2003, four years later, for the RIAA to enter the online world?
It was pure, blind greed that caused the RIAA to cling to its out of date CD model with outlandish album pricing, not a problem of “piracy,” that harmed their business. Giving government more power will not fix that. Contrast with the MPAA, whose box office success continues to grow even as new markets like Netflix bring in previously untapped revenue streams. The business of copyright continues to boom, but only if you do it right.
So when Eric Holder and the Obama administration ask to create a national blacklist of websites to solve an alleged crisis of copyright, I say no. I say there is no crisis of lawbreaking, but rather a failure of business models to adapt to the new world online. Let the free market flourish.
No amount of tailoring can make a bad idea a good one. The Internet kill-switch debate is not about the precision or care with which such a policy might be designed or implemented. It’s about the galling claim on the part of Senators Lieberman, Collins, and Carper that the U.S. government can seize private assets at will or whim.
Back to Net Neutrality, John Stossel has tackled the issue applying his trademark style of down-to-Earth libertarianism to explain how wrong headed the radicals are on Internet regulation:
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