White House Releases Public Comments On IP Enforcement

from the mixed-bag dept

You may recall that, at the end of March, the White House’s “IP Czar” (technical “Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator”), Victoria Espinel, had asked for public comments on how best to enforce intellectual property issues. While we were quite concerned that the tone of the request for comments presupposed a lot of questionable things (i.e., more enforcement is automatically “better”), we encouraged people to send in their thoughts. I shared my letter and also pointed people to the fantastic letter sent by the NetCoalition and CCIA — as well as the ridiculous letter sent by the RIAA, MPAA and the Screen Actors guild.

JJ sends over the news that the White House has now made all of the public comments available. There are a lot. I went through the list and opened a bunch at random (as well as picking out some names of people or companies I recognized to see what they had to say). It seems like plenty of people on both sides of the equation weighed in — often in response to calls from organizations. On the “enforce copyright more!” side, there were a bunch of photographers and independent musicians, who showed up via the Copyright Alliance or the Association of Independent Musicians. On the “be careful” side, there were a bunch of people who clearly used Public Knowledge’s example letter (though, many added to it, or explained why they wanted to reinforce what PK said).

I’m not really sure how helpful those letters really were on either side, as they didn’t add too much to the conversation. The folks responding to the call from the Copyright Alliance didn’t really answer any of the questions from Espinel. They often just said “my business is in trouble, you must help me!” which isn’t very convincing. At times, they went to extreme lengths, like this guy, who tried to convince Espinel that having his photographs copied was the same thing as if he had stolen her car. Very convincing. On the flip side, while I like the folks at Public Knowledge, and perhaps there’s value in numbers of people saying the same thing, I think it would have been nicer if more people wrote their own thoughts out.

Anyway, here were a few that caught my eye, good or bad (all links to filings are pdf files):

  • The filing from the Center for Democracy and Technology was really fantastic. Almost on the level of the NetCoalition filing. I like how it goes through the long list of technologies that were targeted by the entertainment industry as being potential destroyers of their industry which had to be stopped — including the VCR, the mp3 player, the DVR, search engines and more.
  • The filing from the American Library Association is also quite good. It points out that there’s a big difference between “costs to private companies” and “costs to the public good.” And, as for the entertainment industry’s studies on “losses”:

    The fundamental flaw of these studies is that they beg the question of whether a particular private business interest is entitled to government protection for perpetual, stable profits regardless of changing business conditions. The mere fact of declining profits in one business model does not constitute a cognizable harm that government must step in to remedy. Government intervention in any area has costs for taxpayers, and in this area there are added costs to the public when IP policy becomes further slanted in favor of rightsholders and against public access and use.

  • I was really disappointed in the filing from Beggars Group, the UK-based record label. While I fully expected most record labels who filed to support stronger enforcement, Beggars has actually shown itself to be more reasonable than others in embracing modern technology — and it’s filing is strange in that it totally attacks the DMCA’s safe harbors as being totally unfair even as it admits that those safe harbors have created huge new businesses that have created massive consumer value. So, I’m at a loss. Is Beggars really suggesting that because others figured out smart businesses, the government should now punish them in favor of Beggars?
  • eBay’s filing is basically a big ad for eBay.
  • The Mississippi Attorney General, Jim Hood’s filing is so filled with fear mongering as to be laughable. It’s opening sentence — and I am not kidding — compares copyright infringement to the death of a child. It goes on to cite the widely debunked studies that claim copyright infringement supports terrorists and organized crime. This isn’t so much a response to Espinel’s questions as it is a (fictional) horror story to scare little children.
  • There’s an awful lot in Intel’s filing — some good and some bad — but I was pretty shocked to see the statement that Intel believes “another threat to the appropriate protection of famous marks in the U.S. is the expansion of parody as a defense….” Really? I recognize that Intel is a pretty big trademark bully, but it’s really claiming that parody as a defense is going too far?
  • Google’s filing is pretty good, though I felt it could have been stronger on a few points. Still, it reinforces the point that business models are adapting to the changing technology marketplace, and that we should be quite careful that any enforcement program does not harm freedom of speech or expression.
  • Perhaps the input from Ray Charles’ estate isn’t too surprising — in that it talks up the importance of all the royalties they keep collecting for Charles’ music — but given the fact that Charles himself clearly infringed widely on others copyrights to create the very origins of soul music, and talked up the value of “copying” other musicians, it’s pretty disappointing and seems to go against his legacy.
  • I have to admit, I was a bit confused as to why the Military Order of Foreign Wars is such a big supporter of stronger IP enforcement.
  • Of course, not everyone in the military thinks that way. I thought Steve Cupp’s filing (from a Navy email address) showed that there is quite a lot of concern that copyright law has gone way too far, and is now solely being pushed by lobbyists designed to prop up certain businesses.
  • There were some odd ones, like the filing from Om Records that basically says “we don’t know how to compete, please make ISPs pay us.”
  • It was nice to see Oxfam America’s filing focus on why the US should stop trying to force every other country to copy US intellectual property laws, noting that (contrary to what you’ll hear some lobbyists say) the TRIPs agreement says that members should be “free to determine the appropriate method” of implementing the agreement.
  • I thought Bill Waggoner’s filing was nice in that he called out that not all infringement is equal, and lumping safety issues of counterfeit medicines in with people file sharing video games is pretty ridiculous and unhelpful in crafting reasonable policy.

Anyway, there were a lot more obviously, and beyond some of the organization names, I was basically picking at random. But it might be fun to “crowdsource” reviewing some of the filings. If you have a chance take a look at the list and see if you find any interesting filings, and let us know about them in the comments.

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Comments on “White House Releases Public Comments On IP Enforcement”

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Greevar (profile) says:

IP.. bah

I find it to be infinitely offensive that copyrights holders purport that their copyrights are equal to that of physical property, or that they “own” them. Now they perpetuate that lie by influencing the government to create an agency that has IP in its name? This just goes to further legitimizes their illegitimate claim that one can “own” an idea such as music, movies, or games. They’ve taken the mission statement, “to promote the progress of the arts and sciences”, and taken a big steaming shit all over it.

With a name like “Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator”, you know this isn’t about protecting the interests of the people and is more about securing profits for those that create works at the cost of the people’s fair use rights. The name itself implies more enforcement and less rights for the people.

Mike, I saw your UPS video on economics of abundance. You made a very good point on how to align scarcities to abundant goods and I only wish the folks at the RIAA/MPAA would watch it and take that to heart. I’ve even seen Ellis Paul’s tiered support model being used to fund the production of a video game called Interstellar Marines. I recommend you take a look and see how they’ve used the model: http://www.interstellarmarines.com/

MRK says:

Whenever the govt. has any kind of public forum for comments, I always get the impression the entire process is a sham. The agency in question has already made up its mind, and the public comment period is just there so the agency can say “See! We gave the public a voice!”

Perhaps the Techdirt readers should band together, form a PAC, and buy their own Congressman.

Doug B (profile) says:

Here's a couple

Without Copyrights there would be no more artists. And it would be sad. Oh and please do more copyright advertising:

Somehow copyright will keep older music alive (and on the radio) after the musicians have died:

All the idiocy I have time for now… 🙁

Steve R. (profile) says:

Unequal and Selective Rights

The regular press (New York Times) is up in arms concerning the passage of a bill in Arizona regarding illegal immigration. The Times writes “A fight is brewing over Arizona’s new law that turns all of the state’s Latinos, even legal immigrants and citizens, into criminal suspects.” (emphasis added). What’s the connection to proposed IP enforcement?

The regular press wails about the loss of liberties for selected special interests and demands with deep indignation that action be undertaken to protect our precious freedoms. Now when it comes to proposed oppressive IP regulations (created at the behest of certain special interests) that will potentially deprive all US citizens of some of their freedoms while granting special protected privileges to the special interest behind the legislation; the media is strangely silent. Don’t have your “passport” to prove your “citizenship” to a piece of content, off to jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

I Like this quote

One of the responses was from a fellow (Rod Mclean) who seems in favor of strong IP enforcement, yet he puts this awesome quote at the end of his response:

“The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but ‘[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’ To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art.”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co.
499 US 340, 349(1991)

Hephaestus (profile) says:

I didnt find my comment there ...

Thats annoying. My comment isnt there. I went into great lengths about how the entertainment sector has greatly expanded and is now no longer just TV, Music, and Movies. Pretty historical charts that show where the money and peoples time are being spent. Its broken out by age, entertainment type, money, and year. Also gave forecasts that historically have been right on the money for the past 5 years. So I didnt even need to redo the charts.

I will post it to google docs and drop a link here if anyone is interested.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In an economic study commissioned for eSay, the research of Frontier Economics similarly concluded that buyers in the UK, Germany and France can obtain savings of approximatelr 17% for a range of new products by purchasing on eSay rather than in an omine store.”


Dear U.S. Government. This is not acceptable. I want my monopoly rents!!!! I will lose money if competitors are allowed to compete!!! Stop letting others compete with me.

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