Profiles in Rent Seeking

by on August 9, 2006

The Property Rights Alliance, an arm of Grover Norquist’s American’s for Tax Reform with a history of producing error-ridden propaganda in support of stronger IP law, is urging Senator Specter to push two “property rights” bills through his committee. One is the Senate version of H.R. 4128, which denies federal funds to projects that rely on eminent domain abuse. The other is the Perform Act, the music industry’s top legislative priority for the year.

As I explained last fall, the tactic of linking the RIAA’s pet issues with the fight over eminent domain is cynical and deceptive. The owners of real property across the country are genuinely under seige in the wake of Kelo, as the legal system abandoned them, and legislatures have failed to protect their rights. In contrast, the holders of intellectual property have had an unbroken streak of legislative and judicial victories over the last decade, giving them far more sweeping powers under the law than they’ve ever had in the past.

The Perform Act has nothing to do with shoring up property rights. It’s an ill-advised technology mandate that would limit the functionality of digital music devices.

But that isn’t to say that there’s no similarities between the RIAA’s lobbying effort and the legislative fight sparked by the Kelo decision. What the two issues have in common is this: in each case, well-financed and well-connected corporate interests are lobbying for special favors from the legislature. Fortunately, in each case, a coalition of public interest groups and ordinary citizens is fighting back.

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