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Reason‘s Tim Lee on Two Decades of Attempts to Enforce Copyright

From Reason Hit & Run:

Two Decades of Attempts to Enforce Copyright

 | February 15, 2012

Over at Ars Technica, Reason contributor Tim Lee has an excellent brief summary of the last twenty years worth of attempts to use legislation and the court system system to protect copyright. Lowlights include the increasing copyright infringement fines in 1997; the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998, which gave copyright owners effective control over the design of playback devices; the music industry forcing an early cloud music service out of business and pursuing legal action against a DVD jukebox manufacturer for violating the DMCA; and the 2008 passage of the PRO-IP act, which gave way to a series of domestic Internet domain seizures beginning in 2010. In other words, legislators have bought into the industry’s digital piracy panic and given copyright owners all sorts of legal powers and enforcement help over the years. But as we saw with the recent debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the film and music industries are continuing to demand more legal power and government protection, arguing that they can’t compete without it—despite evidence suggesting that these industries are in many ways doing fine.

Update: See Lee’s pro-patent talk here:

See also Mike Masnick’s Techdirt post, How Much Is Enough? We’ve Passed 15 ‘Anti-Piracy’ Laws In The Last 30 Years.

Note also that although Lee does good work here surveying the last two decades of attempts to enforce copyright, Lee is not an opponent of patent or copyright. As I noted in $30 Billion Taxfunded Innovation Contracts: The “Progressive-Libertarian” Solution, in an IP debate on Cato, Lee wrote:

I can’t agree with Baker that all copyright and patent monopolies are illegitimate. Copyright and patent protections have existed since the beginning of the republic, and if properly calibrated they can (as the founders put it) promote the progress of science and the useful arts. Like any government intervention in the economy, they need to be carefully constrained. But if they are so limited, they can be a positive force in the American economy.

As I wrote in response: Ah, yes, that’s our job as market liberals–to help the state “properly calibrate” its grants of pattern privilege!

Also, in my post Thick and Thin Libertarians on IP and Open Source, I noted Lee had expressed some somewhat confused views on net neutrality, IP, and thin libertarianism; see also our interesting exchange there in the comments. Here’s hoping that as Lee examines more and more examples and evidence of the IP police state, Lee will finally come around to the position that copyright (and patent) should be abolished,  instead of thinking they should be “properly calibrated.”


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