DeLong leaves PFF

by on June 1, 2007 · 28 comments

I’ve been thinking about the best way to respond to the news of Jim DeLong’s apparent semi-retirement from the public policy world. For the last decade, DeLong has been the most prolific, and perhaps the most influential, libertarian thinker on patent and copyright issues. He has probably done more than any other person in the libertarian think tank world to promote the view that patents and copyrights are no different than any other kind of property right, and that libertarians should therefore almost always come down in favor of broadening the scope and duration of copyright and patent rights, for stiffening the penalties for violating these laws, and for enacting new regulations of third parties to make it easier for copyright holders to enforce their rights.

I’ve criticized DeLong’swritings repeatedly on this blog, so I won’t re-hash those arguments. But I am disappointed that (with one exception I can recall) DeLong never engaged any of my criticisms. Perhaps he was offended by the derisive tone some of my posts took. Maybe my work just never made it onto his radar screen. In any event, I think it’s sad that a significant opportunity for substantive engagement on these issues was missed. DeLong often seemed to be arguing with caricatures of his ideological opponents, ignoring the more nuanced substantive work he could have found if he’d looked for it. I was particularly disappointed that he never took the time to offer a substantive critique of my DMCA paper, one work of mine that I know he did read. I doubt he would have been able to change my mind (or vice versa), but I bet I would have learned a few things from his criticisms.

One place I do have to give DeLong credit is his amicus brief (with TLF contributor Solveig Singleton) in the Teleflex case. This was probably the most important patent case in the last quarter-century, and in my view he came down on the right side of it, recognizing that the patent system becomes an obstacle to progress if patents are granted too liberally.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    IT doesn’t look to me like DeLong is retiring, he’s founding a new think tank called Convergence Law Institute.

    His “shopping cart” blog was spot-on, and quite hilarious, BTW.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    IT doesn’t look to me like DeLong is retiring, he’s founding a new think tank called Convergence Law Institute.

    His “shopping cart” blog was spot-on, and quite hilarious, BTW.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Tim, you were never worth Jim’s time. Period. Simple.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Tim, you were never worth Jim’s time. Period. Simple.

  • Doug Lay

    DeLongs writing had grown increasingly crackpot and desperate over the last couple of years, as the failure of DRM, the continued success of OSS and the incompatibility of the Internet and the property metaphor all became increasingly apparent. I wonder if he jumped or if he was pushed. Regardless, the departure of DeLong and Patrick Ross is a good thing for the PFF’s credibility. I guess Solveig Singleton is the senior person over there on “IP” these days. Good for her. In tone if not in substance, she is a big improvement over those guys. Unlike them, I get the feeling she is capable of intellectual growth and change.

    Richard, I thought the shopping cart blog was hilarious too, but I was laughing AT him, not WITH him.

    Noel, I think Tim is doing just fine without Jim’s attention. Folks like Tim and Jim Harper are helping reclaim libertarianism from the miguided DeLong-Epstein crowd. Looks to me like they’re winning, for the most part.

  • Doug Lay

    DeLongs writing had grown increasingly crackpot and desperate over the last couple of years, as the failure of DRM, the continued success of OSS and the incompatibility of the Internet and the property metaphor all became increasingly apparent. I wonder if he jumped or if he was pushed. Regardless, the departure of DeLong and Patrick Ross is a good thing for the PFF’s credibility. I guess Solveig Singleton is the senior person over there on “IP” these days. Good for her. In tone if not in substance, she is a big improvement over those guys. Unlike them, I get the feeling she is capable of intellectual growth and change.

    Richard, I thought the shopping cart blog was hilarious too, but I was laughing AT him, not WITH him.

    Noel, I think Tim is doing just fine without Jim’s attention. Folks like Tim and Jim Harper are helping reclaim libertarianism from the miguided DeLong-Epstein crowd. Looks to me like they’re winning, for the most part.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Noel: That comment was uncalled for. Tim is exploring what would constitute a legitimate “property right” given the advances in technology.

    My issue with the PFF is that they are not considering a rationale re-evaluation of the limits of property rights but believe that new unlimited property rights can be seized out of the vacuum created by technological progress.

    What I find interesting from a historical perspective is that the French and Chinese cultural revolutions collapsed when they began feeding on themselves (note the artwork for the TLF). Given, all the press coverage on the laws suits being filed over patent/copyright infringement I wonder if the “intellectual property” (sorry Tim) crowd has gone into a cannibalistic feeding frenzy. Techdirt reported that the AACS itself is being sued for patent infringement. I look forward to Tim further developing a rationale definition of “property right” given the technological environment.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    I rather agree with Doug, noting that Jim and Patrick both refused to acknowledge substantive arguments, repeatedly. Solveig does the same thing, although her tone is sometimes strident, so I am not expecting a big change over at IP Central.

    The reason behind these changes, I would suspect, is that many corporations that funded dis-information campaigns through so-called think tanks realized that there was a decreasing return, and even negative affects generated by this activity, so there has probably been a decrease in funding (my guess) For example, Chevron has stopped funding the CEI and there dis-information campaign re: global warming.

    Example of arguments neglected by IP Central folks include my observation that Patrick Ross’s criticism of wikipedia actually ended up improving it. Thus, wikipedia had subsumed the work of its critics.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Noel: That comment was uncalled for. Tim is exploring what would constitute a legitimate “property right” given the advances in technology.

    My issue with the PFF is that they are not considering a rationale re-evaluation of the limits of property rights but believe that new unlimited property rights can be seized out of the vacuum created by technological progress.

    What I find interesting from a historical perspective is that the French and Chinese cultural revolutions collapsed when they began feeding on themselves (note the artwork for the TLF). Given, all the press coverage on the laws suits being filed over patent/copyright infringement I wonder if the “intellectual property” (sorry Tim) crowd has gone into a cannibalistic feeding frenzy. Techdirt reported that the AACS itself is being sued for patent infringement. I look forward to Tim further developing a rationale definition of “property right” given the technological environment.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    I rather agree with Doug, noting that Jim and Patrick both refused to acknowledge substantive arguments, repeatedly. Solveig does the same thing, although her tone is sometimes strident, so I am not expecting a big change over at IP Central.

    The reason behind these changes, I would suspect, is that many corporations that funded dis-information campaigns through so-called think tanks realized that there was a decreasing return, and even negative affects generated by this activity, so there has probably been a decrease in funding (my guess) For example, Chevron has stopped funding the CEI and there dis-information campaign re: global warming.

    Example of arguments neglected by IP Central folks include my observation that Patrick Ross’s criticism of wikipedia actually ended up improving it. Thus, wikipedia had subsumed the work of its critics.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    This post was basically a plea by Tim for somebody to read his paper. Hysterical… too funny.

    I don’t see any reason for a substantive reply to Tim’s paper. I would not say it was awful, but it was not substantive. Analysis of the DMCA cases was done by check-list (if it does not repeal the DMCA, it stifles innovation), and the paper downright omits some DMCA cases (where there are not many to begin wth). If Tim is going to recite it over and over, I would update it.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    This post was basically a plea by Tim for somebody to read his paper. Hysterical… too funny.

    I don’t see any reason for a substantive reply to Tim’s paper. I would not say it was awful, but it was not substantive. Analysis of the DMCA cases was done by check-list (if it does not repeal the DMCA, it stifles innovation), and the paper downright omits some DMCA cases (where there are not many to begin wth). If Tim is going to recite it over and over, I would update it.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Noel:

    Thank you very much for the strong endorsement of Tim’s Paper. I will read now for sure!

    In the mean time, though, this is another data point on TLF were its OK to be rude to certain people with certain views:

    Tim, you were never worth Jim’s time. Period. Simple.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Enigma, its obvious Tim has been trying to needle Jim to respond to him. Its called envy.

    And why would JDeLong bother? I mean, haha, come on, seriously…

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Noel:

    Thank you very much for the strong endorsement of Tim’s Paper. I will read now for sure!

    In the mean time, though, this is another data point on TLF were its OK to be rude to certain people with certain views:

    Tim, you were never worth Jim’s time. Period. Simple.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Enigma, its obvious Tim has been trying to needle Jim to respond to him. Its called envy.

    And why would JDeLong bother? I mean, haha, come on, seriously…

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Engima, I think it’s pretty obvious that when people resort to petty insults, it’s because they have no real arguments to offer. So I don’t really mind when Noel makes comments like that–especially given that if my work really wasn’t worth his time and trouble, he wouldn’t spend so much time leaving insulting comments here on TLF.

  • http://www.pff.org Noel Le

    Tim one of your methods of getting attention has been to throw insults. You even boast of it above in a resentful rant that Jim never flattered you w attention. Its been important that I engaged you, otherwise anybody from the industry would mistake the think tanks on TLF, where you write the most, as uninformed and detached. You have valued our engagements since you seemed to have settled down and gotten more sense of proportion (at times). Thank me later.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Engima, I think it’s pretty obvious that when people resort to petty insults, it’s because they have no real arguments to offer. So I don’t really mind when Noel makes comments like that–especially given that if my work really wasn’t worth his time and trouble, he wouldn’t spend so much time leaving insulting comments here on TLF.

  • http://www.pff.org Noel Le

    Tim one of your methods of getting attention has been to throw insults. You even boast of it above in a resentful rant that Jim never flattered you w attention. Its been important that I engaged you, otherwise anybody from the industry would mistake the think tanks on TLF, where you write the most, as uninformed and detached. You have valued our engagements since you seemed to have settled down and gotten more sense of proportion (at times). Thank me later.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I’ll just pipe up that I was fascinated to find out that DeLong made ~ $140K in 2003 for being a PFF “Senior Fellow” (from PFF’s public tax data). A jolly good fellow indeed. Think-tankery is quite the business.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry
  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I’ll just pipe up that I was fascinated to find out that DeLong made ~ $140K in 2003 for being a PFF “Senior Fellow” (from PFF’s public tax data). A jolly good fellow indeed. Think-tankery is quite the business.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Speaking of the issue of avoiding engaging in a serious debate:

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/06/02/p

    And another relevant post, perhaps:

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2006/12/31/c

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The evasiveness can most readily by attributed to the fact that many of their critics have enough of a background in the technical fields under discussion to speak over their heads. Tim, your background is Computer Science, so is mine. Probably many of your readers have similar backgrounds. Theirs, however, is in law. When you discuss things like DRM, they want to discuss abstract, philosophical concepts. You, me, and others want to discuss how interoperable DRM would be implemented first before we even taint the law with legislation. That’s bound to clash.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The evasiveness can most readily by attributed to the fact that many of their critics have enough of a background in the technical fields under discussion to speak over their heads. Tim, your background is Computer Science, so is mine. Probably many of your readers have similar backgrounds. Theirs, however, is in law. When you discuss things like DRM, they want to discuss abstract, philosophical concepts. You, me, and others want to discuss how interoperable DRM would be implemented first before we even taint the law with legislation. That’s bound to clash.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/ielohv/14.html Weldon Mckay
  • http://www.freewebs.com/ielohv/14.html Weldon Mckay

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