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Covid-19 Relief Bill Adds Criminal Copyright Streaming Penalties and IP Imperialism

As noted in this Facebook post:

It’s sad to see Republicans and even Fox News types applauding the Covid “relief packages” Congress recently passed and also earlier this year. These are massive wealth transfers and simply theft. I wonder however if the libertarians who believe in takings (eminent domain) have any principled opposition to this, e.g. Richard Epstein, author of Takings. Epstein’s argument there is that sometimes, because of free rider problems and holdouts, you need a public measure that takes someone’s private property for public use, while compensating them for the fair market value, with general tax revenues. This way, the overall cost of a measure is distributed evenly, and everyone benefits since the measure helps the “size of the pie” grow bigger (it is this surplus that you compensate the expropriated victim from, so that no one is harmed on net and everyone benefits overall).

Of course, takings need not be compensated in cash; the taking can be “in kind” or whatever. I also see no reason the pie-growth, or surplus, need to be positive, but only relatively positive–that is, that the taking reduces some harm that would otherwise befall us. Take the Covid crisis. Let’s say it’s a real threat and lockdowns are necessary. So the state has to issue orders forcing some businesses to shut down–restaurants, bars, whatever. This is like a “taking” of their property, for the overall good. The harm would otherwise fall disproportionately hard on them (since not everyone is locked down–knowledge workers who can work remotely, essential workers, and so on get to keep working). So it only makes sense to tax those of us who get to keep working, to bail out the people we locked down. Right?

See where utilitarian thinking gets you?


From the comments:

Barry Bowen: There’s this copyright provision in the Covid bill: “If passed, illegal streaming of works including movies and music tracks could carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.” [The COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Would Make Illegal Streaming a Felony]

Kinsella: YEAH, and get this: the bill provides: “Provided further, That of the funds provided under this heading, not less than $17,100,000 is for modernization initiatives, of which $10,000,000 shall remain available until September 30, 2022: Provided further, That not more than $100,000 of the amount appropriated is available for the maintenance of an ‘‘International Copyright Institute’’ in the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress for the purpose of training nationals of developing countries in intellectual property laws and policies:”

IP Imperialism, anyone?

Update: Not only does the Covid “relief” bill ratchet up copyright penalties… it also fails to extend the Covered Business Methods (CBM) program, which was a way to invalidate bad patents that was introduced in Obama’s AIA (which I discuss in “Obama’s Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?“). US Inventor, apparently a pro-patent lobbying group crows about this here (full text below). Here’s the worst part: “As many of you know, the PTAB has been used by a multitude of multinational conglomerates to invalidate many of the patents held by our independent inventor members. This has caused immeasurable emotional and financial pain for our inventors and their families.” The weird thing is they never say that the patents that are invalidated should not have been. They just think it’s somehow unfair to take a second look at any granted patent. Amazing. These poor wittle inventors

For more patent shills whining about the CBM program, see also The Covered Business Methods Program Must Finally Be Laid to Rest. As quoted there, a group of patent shills argues that “CBM should expire of disinterest, if not to eliminate a proceeding of questionable use, of illegitimate vintage, and of unjust intent.” How rich. People who hold patents and want to use them to extort and shake down competition and impede and distort innovation are upset—they feel “immeasurable emotional and financial pain”—that their victims “unjustly” [sic] and “illegitimately” [sic] want to fight back.

Here’s the text of the US Inventor email about the demise of the CBM, along with calls to also end two other PTAB procedures that help to invalidate bad patents: Post Grant Review (PGR) and Inter Partes Review (IPR), and to pass the execrable Inventor Rights Act, which helps strengthen patent rights and make it harder to challenge bad patents.

We Won This One!

The mission of US Inventor is to restore your rights as an inventor. As stated in the Constitution, a US Patent should provide you the exclusive right to your invention. As you know, bad legislation and judicial decisions have made that no longer the case.

When we learned that the $2.3 trillion spending bill being proposed by Congress contained a proposal to expand patent invalidations at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), we sprang into action and enlisted your help to write and call legislators to educate them on this harmful proposal.

We are proud to say that, thanks to each of you, the nearly 5,600 page spending bill approved by Congress on Monday contains no mention of the Covered Business Method (CBM) program of the PTAB.

This is a huge win!

As many of you know, the PTAB has been used by a multitude of multinational conglomerates to invalidate many of the patents held by our independent inventor members. This has caused immeasurable emotional and financial pain for our inventors and their families.

Now that the CBM program has been successfully defeated, there are two PTAB procedures that remain – Post Grant Review (PGR) and Inter Partes Review (IPR).

We will now be focusing on legislation and other actions to reform or eliminate the PTAB and other measures to restore the reliability of patents so that inventors can compete and bring their disruptive technologies to the market. Passage of the Inventor Rights Act is a big part of this effort.

We will update you shortly on what we are doing to achieve our mission and what you can do to help. For now, on behalf of all of us at US Inventor, we wish you and your families a safe and prosperous holiday season.

Questions? Email randy@usinventor.org
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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.