Robert Wexler on copyright

Last week, CISAC held a World Copyright Summit, where the content corporations and their supporters got together to discuss the progress of the copyfight. Congressman Robert Wexler gave an interesting speech; here’s the highlights:

Too often – I am sorry to say – our perspectives and goals are losing ground.

In the public debate, outside Washington and Brussels – and beyond trade journals and economic reports, most people, first, would not be able to describe what intellectual property is. Second, too many do not see digital piracy – for example – as the serious theft that we here in this room know it to be.

Wexler realises his side are losing the war of ideas. And the content corporations’ push for harsh new laws has met a fightback:

As nearly everyone in this room knows, this week that same “Pirate Political Party” won a seat in the EU parliament. It won 7.1 % of the total vote in Sweden, and even more shockingly, it had the HIGHEST percentage of 18-25 year-old voters.

Interestingly, while the PP was supported by 12% of male voters, only 4% of female voters voted for them. Given that women use computers and the Internet as much as men do, there is clearly room for the PP to increase its overall votee share to 12%.

That statistic should alarm all of us in this room who care about intellectual property law. The fact that younger people came out to vote in such large numbers is significant because we know that getting someone to the poll the FIRST time is the hardest part. Those young voters are now much more likely to vote in the next election — and the election after that. Soon, those 18-25 year olds will be home owners, and business owners and employees of major companies.

And the next generation of young voters coming after them will be even more solid PP supporters!

We can’t lose this generation on intellectual property issues and we can’t fool ourselves.

Too late, you’ve already lost them. And as long as you keep demanding to remove freedom from the Internet, you’ll keep losing.

In Sweden this week we saw a group of political newcomers start to embed their perspectives in stone.

Yep. Sweden was only the beginning.

We must send an unequivocal message that the theft of intellectual property – whether the corporate piracy of software, organized crime manufacturing of optical disks, or personal Internet downloading – will not be tolerated.

The problem is that making copies isn’t theft, in law or in fact,  and as long as you keep parroting that tired lie, you’ll keep losing.

We are facing two significant problems simultaneously. First, our voices are getting increasingly lost in a sea of misinformation from the anti-intellectual property community. And second, our opponents don’t necessarily have to play by the rules. The anti-intellectual property advocates are free to make simple arguments that often resonate with an audience because they are not based in “facts” or “legal rights.”

So, what a blogger in Sweden writes in a few minutes would take hours or days for the copyright community to answer in an appropriate factual response. It takes much longer to argue using facts and precedent than it does to say anything you want because it sounds plausible — just like it takes far longer to make a movie than it does to steal it.

Interestingly I’ve found the same problem arguing from the other side of the case.

And to add to this, there are significant business interests, both legitimate and grey market, that benefit from weakening intellectual property protection. Sadly, some companies who have a strong interest in WEAKENING copyright are spending lots of money to influence voters.

Yes. Makers of consumer electronics, and web startups, often benefit from less restrictive IP laws. Overall, more people benefit from looser regulations than from tighter ones. There is an overall economic benefit from weaker IP laws.

Intellectual property is the only place where the United States has a trade surplus with every nation in the world. In America today, our capacity to come up with new ideas actually outstrips the value of the goods we make.

Which means every other country has a financial incentive towards looser IP in its trade with the USA. So why is Wexler mystified when he says:

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative cited 50 countries, even key allies, such as Canada and India, for failure to adequately protect U.S. intellectual property rights.

Maybe these countries are just acting in their own interests.

And just as in Sweden and elsewhere across the world, this young generation of Americans does not see intellectual property as worth protecting. The proliferation of illegal file-sharing networks at universities means that when they graduate from college, our young people will have become completely accustomed and desensitized to this form of theft.

Yep, you’ll just have to get used to it. We don’t live in the 20th century any more. The PP is the first 21st century political movement, and we’re going to keep on growing.

In fact, it is in our high schools and colleges where we must improve our outreach and spread our message of respecting the value of intellectual property.

LOL. Your clunky propaganda will just convert people to the PP cause.

Wexler thinks Obama will ride to the rescue of IP:

Too often the Bush Administration acted in supposed self interest only to anger our allies and doom alliances that would be in both the interest of the United States and the international community. This all changed with the election of President Barack Obama. […] The intellectual property community must ride President Obama’s coat-tails in this respect. As the President re-builds the transatlantic relationship, we also must use this momentum to harmonize and cooperate on vital intellectual property issues with Europe.

If European governments have the PP breathing down their necks, maybe they’ll listen to their own voters instead of the USA. And Obama is probably clever enough not to get on the losing side of this fight.

Quite frankly, international copyright piracy is crippling American businesses overseas.

Well cry me a river.

(via Techdirt)

This entry was posted in censorship, digital rights, economics, Europe, filesharing, MPAA, politics, RIAA, USA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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