Speaking of Cynical…

by on April 26, 2006 · 12 comments

Here’s Patrick Ross’s take on today’s Cato conference:

I wonder how some of the Cato fellows and alums in the audience felt, then, when twice Cato was welcomed into the fold as a copyfighter. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and the CEA’s Gary Shapiro both did so. Lofgren said she didn’t recall ever stepping foot into Cato before, but “this might be one area where Cato and I form a working partnership.” Shapiro urged Cato to take the issue to the Hill. What Lofgren and Shapiro are referring to is a recent paper published by Cato that calls for, essentially, a repeal of the DMCA. The paper takes a very cynical view toward intellectual property rights and creators.

To be honest, I’m not sure what he’s talking about in that last sentence. At no point in my paper do I write anything that could be plausibly described as a “cynical view toward intellectual property rights.” As I’ve tried over and over to emphasize, my concern is with the ways the DMCA has interfered with the marketplace in realms outside the traditional scope of copyright, such as preventing interoperability and stifling competition. I can easily imagine Mr. Ross having legitimate policy disagreements with my analysis, or arguing that the benefits of DRM technology are worth these downsides. I think that would be an interesting and productive debate. But for some reason, he doesn’t seem very interested in it.

Instead, Ross seems determined to knock down a straw man of my views. When I argue that the DMCA is a poor method of protecting copyrights, he describes that as being “cynical” about intellectual property. As in his epic three part critique to my paper last month, Mr. Ross’s primary mode of argument seems to be to misrepresent my arguments and positions.

I should mention he’s not the only one who responds to criticism of the DMCA by refuting straw men. On my own panel today, Emory Smith of the Business Software Alliance seemed not to have listened to the others on our panel, as he spent virtually his entire speech refuting the position that piracy was hunky-dory– a position that no one on the panel had taken. The defenders of the DMCA seem determined to avoid having a serious debate about the law’s effectiveness or unintended consequences. It’s so much easier to simply paint those who disagree with them as “copyfighters,” “intellectual property skeptics,” or IP anarchists who want to “abolish IP rights in favor of some mystical commune wherein all IP is free as the air and creators are compensated by government.”

I think that “cynical” is a reasonable way of describing this rhetorical strategy. I can only imagine that they’ve adopted it because they don’t have good responses to the actual arguments against the DMCA. For example, despite several requests, Mr. Ross has yet to substantiate his claim that I made a mistake when I wrote that “the DVD CCA never approved any software DVD players for Linux [and] that the DVD CCA must approve DVD software players.” I think documenting that accusation might be a good starting point for a debate based on facts and arguments rather than name-calling.

  • Doug Lay

    Speaking of Partick Ross, did Rep. Lamar Smith REALLY say yesterday that the DMCA is “the foundation of our digital economy,” as Mr. Ross reports on the IPCentral blog? I knoew Rep. Smith was misguided, but can he really be THAT far gone? This comment calls for significant ridicule, if Rep. Smith really made it. I hesitate to rely on the word of Patrick Ross though.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Tim,

    They don’t seem to like to actually engage others who disagree with them. Either their trackback system is broken, or they blocked my blog, but they won’t let me ping their entries with rebuttals to their posts. I guess it just goes to show that they are like a lot of “policy people.” They want to be able to put their ideas out there without having to defend them in a civil and logical manner. Look at Epstein’s last paper and its wildly inaccurate take on what constitutes open source software. They’re not interested in being corrected, they just want to be right.

    You would think that they’d be frothing at the mouth over Intellectual Ventures, a patent cartel specifically created to sue the hell out of research and development upstarts trying to build up products. All of the big guys have funded them. Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Where is Ross on this? How about DeLong? This represents a fundamental abuse of the patent system because it’s a company designed for the sole purpose of using patents to drain money out of the economy since IV has no R&D employees at all. They literally produce nothing except lawsuits.

    But, again, as they are quick to remind us about all IP. Without the strictest laws humanly possible, it’d all fall apart. No one would produce anything of value. Nothing would be written, drawn, filmed, recorded, research, built, nothing. The only reason that people are interested in art and science is money and would never work at it unless they could make outrageous sums of money. *Looks at average research scientist and artist*. Oh wait, they get paid crap on average compared to your average IP attorney.

    You know what would make it a lot easier for IPCentral to be taken seriously by anyone outside of the IP extremist camp? If they would open up comments like TLF and actually engage their critics. A blog with closed trackbacks and comments is nothing more than a very biased news media website.

  • Doug Lay

    Speaking of Partick Ross, did Rep. Lamar Smith REALLY say yesterday that the DMCA is “the foundation of our digital economy,” as Mr. Ross reports on the IPCentral blog? I knoew Rep. Smith was misguided, but can he really be THAT far gone? This comment calls for significant ridicule, if Rep. Smith really made it. I hesitate to rely on the word of Patrick Ross though.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Tim,

    They don’t seem to like to actually engage others who disagree with them. Either their trackback system is broken, or they blocked my blog, but they won’t let me ping their entries with rebuttals to their posts. I guess it just goes to show that they are like a lot of “policy people.” They want to be able to put their ideas out there without having to defend them in a civil and logical manner. Look at Epstein’s last paper and its wildly inaccurate take on what constitutes open source software. They’re not interested in being corrected, they just want to be right.

    You would think that they’d be frothing at the mouth over Intellectual Ventures, a patent cartel specifically created to sue the hell out of research and development upstarts trying to build up products. All of the big guys have funded them. Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Where is Ross on this? How about DeLong? This represents a fundamental abuse of the patent system because it’s a company designed for the sole purpose of using patents to drain money out of the economy since IV has no R&D; employees at all. They literally produce nothing except lawsuits.

    But, again, as they are quick to remind us about all IP. Without the strictest laws humanly possible, it’d all fall apart. No one would produce anything of value. Nothing would be written, drawn, filmed, recorded, research, built, nothing. The only reason that people are interested in art and science is money and would never work at it unless they could make outrageous sums of money. *Looks at average research scientist and artist*. Oh wait, they get paid crap on average compared to your average IP attorney.

    You know what would make it a lot easier for IPCentral to be taken seriously by anyone outside of the IP extremist camp? If they would open up comments like TLF and actually engage their critics. A blog with closed trackbacks and comments is nothing more than a very biased news media website.

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

    My recollection is that Jim DeLong promoted Intellectual Ventures as a good thing.

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

    My recollection is that Jim DeLong promoted Intellectual Ventures as a good thing.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Why does that not surprise me? Things like these seem like “common sense” when you are caught up in law and policy, but when you are actually a developer, they are a matter of your profession being raped. The more that things like this come to pass, the more that I think the entire patent system should be outright abolished in favor of temporary monopolies for certain industries.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Why does that not surprise me? Things like these seem like “common sense” when you are caught up in law and policy, but when you are actually a developer, they are a matter of your profession being raped. The more that things like this come to pass, the more that I think the entire patent system should be outright abolished in favor of temporary monopolies for certain industries.

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