Copyright Alliance Pretending That Gov't Backed Monopolies Are The Free Market Again
from the up-is-down,-black-is-white dept
A few months back, the big entertainment companies formed yet another copyright lobbying group — as if they didn’t already have enough — to push for more restrictive copyright policies that would limit the rights of consumers. This was the group that just last week was trying to spread the myth that fair use was not a right and copyright holders should be able to lie about what rights copyright grants them. However, the head of the group, Patrick Ross, really seems to get into trouble when he tries to trot out free market concepts to support his positions. You may recall back in January his position that getting rid of the DMCA would go against the free market because it would represent government intervention. He seemed to totally ignore the fact that it was the DMCA that was gov’t intervention in the first place. Apparently, Ross hasn’t given up on this “up is down, day is night” type of debate style, as copyright expert William Patry has taken Patrick Ross to task for claiming that new laws supporting consumer rights when it comes to copyrighted content were “government intervention” against the free market. As Patry points out all copyright is government intervention — and supporting stronger copyrights is to be calling for greater gov’t intervention. To then claim that giving more power back to the consumers on copyright is gov’t intervention, is being intellectually dishonest. You can support copyright by claiming that the market breaks down and there’s a market failure that necessitates such gov’t intervention (and, in fact, many people do). But to claim that stronger copyrights means a stronger free market is an outright falsehood. Ross seems to be under the false impression that the “natural” position of the market is to have the strongest possible copyrights, and therefore, any weakening of that is gov’t intervention. That creates a complete blindspot to the fact that all copyright is government intervention, and giving rights back to consumers is less government intervention.
Ross’s response to Patry in the comments continues this rather twisted logic, by claiming that free markets are about property rights, and therefore, supporting stronger copyright is about supporting stronger property rights — and therefore, it is a free market position. However, Ross’s understanding of the free market is confused here. He’s right that property rights are important — but only as a means of more efficiently handling the allocation of scarce resources. That’s the entire purpose of property rights in the free market. The logic breaks down, rather completely, when you talk about infinite, rather than scarce, goods. There is no need for more efficient allocation of infinite goods, because they’re infinitely available, and therefore allocation is automatically efficient. Again, it’s perfectly reasonable (though I would likely disagree with some of the assumptions) to argue that copyright is a necessary gov’t intervention due to market failures from a true free market (which appears to be Patry’s position). However, to argue that stronger copyright monopolies from the gov’t is the opposite of gov’t intervention isn’t a supportable position.