Hackery

by on December 1, 2005 · 4 comments

As an employee of a right-of-center think tank, I’ve had my share of accusations thrown at me that I’m in the pay of corporate America, so I don’t say things like this lightly, but after reading the recently-founded Property Rights Alliance’s defense of the DMCA, I have to say: the RIAA and MPAA should ask for their money back. A few of the most obvious and embarrassing errors:

However, “fair use,” the term often identified with the right to use certain copyrighted intellectual property without permission from or payment to the patent holder, is deceptive rhetoric that masks the real effects of this term. Fair use is inherently perverse to patent holders, intellectual property corporations, and most importantly, to the American consumer.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a fair use doctrine in patent law. And in any event, HR 1201 doesn’t make any changes to patent law. It’s hard to see how you can even begin to have an intelligent discussion of the merits of Boucher’s legislation if you don’t even know the difference between a patent and a copyright. This was clearly written by someone who doesn’t have the first clue what he’s talking about. It continues in the same vein:

Fair use provisions stated in [HR 1201] allow for the manufacturing and dissemination of hacking devices that circumvent copyright protections and infringe on patents, so long as these products are “capable of substantial non-infringing uses.”

HR 1201 allows you to infringe patents? That’s certainly news to me. I suspect it’s news to Rep. Boucher as well. And strangely, the text of the bill does not include the word “patent.”

Then we have this gem:

Providing an exemption for any device that has non-infringement purposes effectively destroys all protections of copyrighted material.

I bet Justices Stevens and O’Connor will be surprised to learn that they abolished copyright law when they established precisely that standard in 1984. Who knew that America had no effective copyright protections until Congress enacted them in 1998?

I could go on, but you get the point. I vigorously support the right of corporate America to hire people to promote their point of view in the legislative arena. But for their own good, they really ought to choose hired guns who know what they’re talking about.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    I’m disappointed. I wanted to ‘blog about this and call it “T-ball for Tim Lee.” If a slow fat pitch was ever thrown, this is it.

    So we know who’s shilling for whom, the Property Rights Alliance is housed at Americans for Tax Reform (judging by their shared addresses). ATR has a great brand and business model, but they risk eroding it by doing this kind of shoddy work.

    Indeed, they are arguably supporting simple rent-seeking. ATR wants lower taxes but higher than necessary transfers of wealth to copyright owners. How is that consistent?

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    I’m disappointed. I wanted to ‘blog about this and call it “T-ball for Tim Lee.” If a slow fat pitch was ever thrown, this is it.

    So we know who’s shilling for whom, the Property Rights Alliance is housed at Americans for Tax Reform (judging by their shared addresses). ATR has a great brand and business model, but they risk eroding it by doing this kind of shoddy work.

    Indeed, they are arguably supporting simple rent-seeking. ATR wants lower taxes but higher than necessary transfers of wealth to copyright owners. How is that consistent?

  • http://abstractfactory.blogspot.com/ Cog

    Jim, your naivete is touching, and I can only hope it’s feigned. It’s consistent in the sense that both measures increase the nation’s Gini coefficient, which is the real goal of ATR. Duh.

  • http://abstractfactory.blogspot.com/ Cog

    Jim, your naivete is touching, and I can only hope it’s feigned. It’s consistent in the sense that both measures increase the nation’s Gini coefficient, which is the real goal of ATR. Duh.

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