Consumer Group Points Out That IP Laws Are Often Anti-Consumer And Need To Be Fixed

from the people-are-realizing... dept

While most people still don’t pay much attention to the harm caused by out of control intellectual property law, it does appear that recognition of this issue is growing daily. We often hear the refrain that “intellectual property laws will never change, so why bother pointing out their problems,” which is an incredibly defeatist attitude. Slowly but surely, the evidence is mounting, and as we see more cases of situations like Russia’s abuse of copyright laws to suppress dissent, people will begin to realize how far gone these laws have become.

The latest case of a group recognizing the issue is Consumers International, who have begun a new campaign to point out how intellectual property is quite frequently used in anti-consumer ways, well beyond its stated intention. According to IP-Watch:

Copyright and patent laws “are often misused” for reasons that have “more to do with limiting competition and preventing consumers from making innovative uses of their products” than they do with stopping piracy, global consumer advocacy group Consumers International plans to tell a UN internet meeting today….

Consumers International is asking for an amendment of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection [pdf], which was first adopted 25 years ago, the group said in a press release. Jeremy Malcolm, the Consumers International project director for IP and communications, said that IP rights and human rights have “for too long” been framed as having similar status, when misuse of IP interferes with “freedom of expression, education and participation in cultural life.”

It’s unlikely that this will have much impact initially, but it’s hard to deny that more and more people are recognizing the problems of an out of control intellectual property system that has been the result of decades upon decades of regulatory capture.

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Comments on “Consumer Group Points Out That IP Laws Are Often Anti-Consumer And Need To Be Fixed”

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17 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Aren’t all IP laws (probably with the exception of trademark, that I am not even sure if it is IP) anti-consumer?

What does the consumer gain with IP laws? Nothing.

What does the consumer lose? Plenty. Usually the ability to make backups or often the ability to to even be able to watch/play what he paid for, since the DRM implementation is often faulty and circumventing it can mean legal trouble sometimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

and even then that’s a dubious claim because patent trolls do not produce and a lot of middlemen who hold copyrights do not produce but instead exploit artists who do produce by making it more expensive for restaurants to play independent music and by only allowing works that the middlemen have control over to be distributed over information distribution channels, like broadcast radio, wrongfully controlled by those middlemen. So IP is not really for the consumer or the producer, it’s more for the middlemen.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Trademark is pro-consumer, but trademark law is actually better grouped with anti-fraud statutes than it is with copyright and patents.

In *theory*, copyrights and patents are meant to provide additional economic incentive for the creation of new works and the development of new ideas, which then benefit the whole of society.

In practice, as Techdirt has well documented, copyrights and patents are actually now more commonly employed to exploit legacy works and to intimidate legitimate competitors rather than to provide incentives for new developments. However, the fact that copyright and patent law have failed at achieving their original aims doesn’t invalidate the fact that those aims were pro-consumer.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Where is the ACLU?

An unanswered question that I have had for a long time has been the ACLU’s position on so-called intellectual property? It seems that the progressive abuse of intellectual property laws depriving consumers of their civil rights has been “overlooked” by the ACLU. I believe this may be simply a case of an organization born out of the social ills of the early 20th century not truly recognizing the insidious expansion of so-called IP laws in the 21st century. Hopefully, as the ACLU hires younger technologically sophisticated lawyers the organization may become more activity fighting so-called intellectual property.

I did a quick search of ACLU on TechDirt, and there were quit a few hits. So maybe things are as bad as I am thinking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where is the ACLU?

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100519/0404029486.shtml

Great video, some ACLU members were in the audience and they are noted for their efforts.

I do think IP is inherently unethical. That’s not to say it shouldn’t exist. I do tend to think that it either shouldn’t exist or should be substantially reduced. If it is to exist then it should exist only to the extent that it benefits society and promotes the progress of the science and the arts. Our current system does neither. All existing instances of IP should be justified and hence it must be shown that the benefits from IP justify enacting a moral wrong.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The problem is how to get the politicians off the copyright industry’s payroll. Until that happens, nothing will change.”

Actually there are two ways. Wait for the labels and collection societies to fail financially, then there is no incentive for the politicians to support them anymore. The second is to fan the flames and cause a backlash for ACTA and similar laws.

The second option is easier because the IP types don’t seem to realize their is a limit to how far you can push in one direction. The pendulum is due to swing in the other direction and it will over the next 5-10 years as more of the techno savy younger generation begin pushing back.

TDR says:

I’m not so sure about the first method, H. Won’t the government just give the MAFIAA a bailout if they go bankrupt, thereby keeping them alive and perpetuating this mess?

Perhaps somebody should look into how one removes a parasitic organism from its host and then apply a similar solution to remove the MAFIAA and their ilk from society.

I do wonder what would happen if, theoretically, the HQ’s of the MAFIAA and those like them were literally destroyed. Or perhaps if some enterprising group of hackers got into their Swiss bank accounts and emptied them out.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Copyright

So true, but while copyright is the most abused, there is massive abuse in all forms of IP in the US today – and I say that as an IP attorney.
Hopefully the increasing recognition will lead to a fix, though you have to sympathize with Congress, the real culprits.
I am sure they would like to fix things (or even abolish IP and start over again?), but to remain in Congress takes lots of money, and for most of them, that means selling their souls.
Personally I am sure we need IP in some form, but it is pretty far gone right now, with all the abuse Congress allows.

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