Why Hasn't The Report Debunking Entire US Foreign IP Policy Received The Attention It Deserves?

from the questions-to-ponder dept

We’ve written a few times now about the really astoundingly detailed and impressive research report from the Social Science Research Council. It effectively debunks the entire premise behind the US governments foreign IP policy, which focuses almost exclusively on ratcheting up enforcement. The report — all 440 pages of it — systematically details why such ratcheting up of enforcement does not, can not and will not help, but shows how alternative business models and pricing models seem to work much better.

We’ve questioned why the US government seems to be ignoring the research, and Reuters blogger Felix Salmon has picked up on this, calling it “the best report ever on media piracy,” and bemoaning the fact that it’s been almost entirely ignored.

The most depressing aspect of this report is the fact that it doesn?t seem to have caused anything like the splash that it deserves. It?s an astonishing work of cooperative international scholarship, and really ought to fundamentally change the debate about intellectual-property enforcement in arenas with names like WIPO and USTR. But I fear that it?s too sensible and empirical for that. If the Obama Administration isn?t welcoming this report with open arms, then I fear no one will.

Indeed. It’s really quite depressing. Perhaps it’s because the report is so long? I’ve noticed that those who disagree with it in our comments haven’t even bothered trying to take on any of the detailed and thorough analysis in the report itself, preferring instead to mock those of us who are talking about the report. I find this troubling. As someone who believes very strongly in taking in all research and data to better understand something, it seems troubling that when so much effort and research has gone into such a report, critics are writing it off completely without even a cursory analysis of it.

But even more troubling is the fact that the press and our elected officials have mostly been ignoring this as well. I think it’s a shame that this report hasn’t received much more attention, and I’m going to start sending copies to various elected officials to see if I can get comments on it. Hopefully, many of you will do the same.

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Comments on “Why Hasn't The Report Debunking Entire US Foreign IP Policy Received The Attention It Deserves?”

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Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re: there are so many terms for it

There are so many ways to refer to them:

luddites, fundies, politicians, republicans, democrats, libertarians, tea partiers, conservatives, liberals.

What it sums up is the same problem across the board: straight up fear of change and inertia against it, even if change is inevitable.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: there are so many terms for it

“What it sums up is the same problem across the board: straight up fear of change and inertia against it, even if change is inevitable.”

Reading that, I had this flash where I saw a train full of luddites, fundies, politicians, republicans, democrats, libertarians, tea partiers, conservatives, and liberals heading towards a very large immovable stone wall.

Then it occured to me. There is a lawyer joke in there somewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

A very cynical point of view would state that this factual report that debunks most of the assumptions that are currently made regarding IP throughout the halls of power is being ignored because those in the halls of power are under the thumb of the content industry, which has a huge vested interest in making sure that the status quo is not altered in the wrong direction for their business models.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Sometimes...

Two words, Zombie Apocalypse. Who would bother worrying about IP protection if they had to worry about the guy next to then turning and eating their brains?

It would solve so many problems. No more food shortage (zombies don’t eat corn), no more pollution problem (that sure would drop our carbon footprint), no more bandwidth crunch (OK, I know that’s already not real), no more overpopulation. It would make the pharmaceuticals happy because they could sell Zombrex (I have a box on my desk).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sometimes...


“No more food shortage”

Maybe for you! What about the zombies? Brains don’t grow on trees, you know!? Zombies are people too!

“no more pollution problem”

Yeah, well, it certainly won’t be smelling like roses with all those decaying corpses walking around.

“no more bandwidth crunch”

Only if the zombie don’t get too hungry. Everything looks crunchy and delicious to a hungry zombie…even bandwidth.

“no more overpopulation”

Hellooo!! Zombie apocalypse!? Overpopulation of zombies? Sheesh…

Well, actually, if the “survivors” get busy shotgunning, overpopulation of zombies won’t be a problem for long…

/Tried to be funny

Van Helsing says:

Re: Re: Sometimes...

“It would solve so many problems. No more food shortage (zombies don’t eat corn), no more pollution problem (that sure would drop our carbon footprint)…”

Actually, like cows, zombies emit greenhouse gases due to the continual decomposition.

Not only that, but since they not only eat humans, but all sort of living organism, they would create a huge problem with the natural ecosystem as they first devour humans, then animals… then even insects.

Eventually, since the greenhouse gases would cause global warming (according to some), the polar ice caps would melt, causing a rise in the water levels that would eventually cover 95% of the world’s surface, submerging the zombies – who don’t need to breath and would begin devouring the remaining aquotic animal life.

Without life to eat the plankton – the most abundant source of photosynthesis on the planet – the plankton would overpopulate the oceans, destroying nutrients and without carbon dioxide producing organism left, would eventually starve and die – leaving a dead sea, in a dead world with an uninhabitable atmosphere.

The resulting natural devastion from an immortal race of continually hungry predators would be just as catastrophic as long term exposure to pollution or nuclear war.

John Doe says:

Re: Ask the IPCC

I believe we have two problems with our governing bodies. The first is outright corruption with politicians only in it for themselves. The second is the problem you point out with people only caring about what they think should be true rather than searching for what really is true. Between these two problems, we have little hope of real reform and progress.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ask the IPCC

Don’t get too depressed about it, though. There are a lot of big battles that have been fought and largely won over the last few centuries:
– state-endorsed slavery is history
– state-endorsed religious, racial and sex-based discrimination is in decline
– corporal and capital punishment are significantly less prevalent than they once were
– sustainability is at least granted lip service in many economies around the world

The dream some folks have of a future where schools and hospitals are fully funded, but the air force has to hold a bake sale to afford a new fighter jet is still rather remote, but it doesn’t take much of a review of history to realise just how much the world has changed with the steady rise in the availability of global travel and communications.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

That's Easy

Politicians read what they are paid to read. Since the Entertainment industry is not paying them to read this, the politicians are not reading it.

News Media reports on what they are paid to report. Since the news media is all owned by entertainment companies, they are not paid to report on this.

Is that really hard to understand?

Jay says:

I think the report hurt itself

Consider the Consumer’s Dilemma for a few moments.

In one fell swoop, when the report was just released, it effectively set up exactly what most people hate considering. It was the hypocrisy of using law to influence a natural thing.

The Dilemma set up regionalization with its geolocator.
It used price differentiation for a digital good.
It forced the consumer to consider their own moral choice in how badly did they want this good.

Think about the people that come to this site:
Those who would read the report and find good information would come out, probably did “pirate” or even pay $8 for it.

Others, knowing that their careers were based on a stance of ignorance, didn’t read the report.

To end, perhaps, even in jest, the consumer’s dilemma was too good of a strategy to get the data dispersed.

Copyright really did its job.

hobo says:

That the report is behind a paywall for people in high-income countries probably goes a long way in explaining the apparent lack of interest.

This is no different than a scholarly journal. I’m sure that there are a lot of great papers printed in them, about fascinating research, but I don’t want to subscribe to the journals who get the papers for free. Perhaps if I could subscribe to the people doing the work.

A pdf for $8 is a non-starter.

cc (profile) says:

Here’s what I think.

– The report is called “Media piracy in emerging economies”. It sounds irrelevant in discussions about enforcement in developed economies.

– The report is too long. The first part (“Rethinking Piracy”, the first 70 pages by Karaganis) is what people need to read.

– The $8 paywall, even though put up ironically or whatever, is keeping people away.

– The politicians have already made the choice to increase enforcement, because so far they’ve only been listening to one side of the debate. Changing their tune now requires effort.

So. There is nothing that can be done about the last point, but for the rest: I suggest the authors of the report take out the first part and put it in a separate pdf, which they give away for free under a different title (such as “Rethinking Piracy”). Put the pdf under a CC license and let people share it freely.

Mike, if you’ve been in contact with them please make the suggestion.

Anonymous Coward says:

The report looks like it might have some legs until I start searching around the groups site and I find:


At that point, I realize the report is no less biased than something from the **IA’s, and I can understand why nobody touches it. It likely “debunks” one side by filling in it’s own bunk.

Nice 🙂 Mike, how about a little honesty in the future?

Jay says:

Re: Re:


Have you read it?

They go through careful details regarding economics, copyright, enforcements (which isn’t exclusive to the US), and price points.

Top that off with 30 researchers doing careful analysis for 3 years and you really have a lot of good data that those on the side of copyright enforcement seem to lack.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nice attempted slam, and nice attempt to avoid the point: If these people are getting their positions and views from Lessig, no doubt Mike approves of their “debunking”. Sadly, we have already shown where people like Lessig tend to add their own “bunk” to the discussion, making the report rather one sided.

Mike would be all over it like a dirty shift if someone from the **ia’s was involved in a pro-copyright report. Why ignore the relationships this group has with well known anti-copyright people?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nice attempted slam, and nice attempt to avoid the point: If these people are getting their positions and views from Lessig, no doubt Mike approves of their “debunking”. Sadly, we have already shown where people like Lessig tend to add their own “bunk” to the discussion, making the report rather one sided.

Mike would be all over it like a dirty shift if someone from the **ia’s was involved in a pro-copyright report. Why ignore the relationships this group has with well known anti-copyright people

1. Lessig had nothing to do with the report as far as I know.

2. I disagree with plenty of Lessig’s positions.

3. As someone else pointed out *on this very thread*, Mitch Bainwol, the head of the RIAA, is also a part of SSRC.

So, your claim that I’d be all over it if he had a relationship with the group is plainly false.

It’s pretty funny how you can’t criticize the report at all so you shift your focus to something totally irrelevant, then make a totally false claim that was already proven false earlier in this thread.

Dude. What happened? You used to at least have some talent in playing the loyal opposition.

coldbrew says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It’s pretty funny how you can’t criticize the report at all…

No. It’s not funny anymore. This crap makes me so mad I type comments of little value with references to copyrighted material (i.e. American culture), or use entirely abusive language because these their comments are so stupid, I don’t know what else to say.

I wish there were people willing to put their name behind credible rebuttals to your arguments, but there aren’t any. For the ~8 months I’ve been reading this web-log, I’ve probably seen maybe 4 decent responses to your posts (wrt to intellectual pooperty issues). These people are an annoyance, and just noise on the line.

If it weren’t for the funny comments I often read, I would have had to stop reading the comments section entirely.

Joe Karaganis (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

1. No connection to Larry Lessig. And in fact we have relatively little to say about Lessig’s broadest concerns with IP, creativity, and innovation in the report, or even his narrower concerns with piracy and orphaned works. We do echo his very legitimate and separate constitutional concerns about how the Obama administration has proposed to ratify the ACTA agreement, via a sub-variety of executive order.

2. … Ok, well. I’ll own up to a few some other time.

3. The ‘Media Research Hub’ that people are pointing to is just a sort of structured wikipedia for the media research sector related to an earlier project, not a list of SSRC partners, staff, board members or whatever. It has about 4000 profiles in it. Sadly, it never achieved critical mass and is growing out of date. It’s main utility, at this point, is to make a large tier of developing-world researchers more googleable, which is why we’ve left it up. It may have served its purpose at this point.

4. I’m sensitive to the evolving pros/cons of the Consumer’s Dilemma license and am genuinely interested to know how big that subset of potential readers is that:

  • Lives in a high-income country.
  • Wants to read the whole thing (as opposed to the various and substantial excerpts we’ve posted).
  • Won’t pay $8 (would it matter if we called it an ebook and locked it into Amazon/Apple?).
  • Doesn’t fall under (or won’t assert an expanded claim on) the various carved out exceptions
  • Won’t pirate it.

Our guess has been: very small, but we could be wrong. We probably will re-CC-license it, eventually, for the CD license haters out there. I will wager that it’s very hard to read past page 1 of the 440 without getting the point about incomes, pricing, and access barriers.

Jay says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

With all due respect, I would love to hear how the experiment has come about so far. Have you really targeted anyone that is in the news industry or entertainment industry?

Have you made a “fuss” about the data or is it more about the “put out and pray” approach?

I know that I would probably use the data to bring up great arguments and I would love to buy the book (You don’t have Google Checkout! >_

Joe Karaganis (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I think it’s safe to say this isn’t “put out and pray.” If you’re curious about the results of our launch efforts to date, have a look here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MPEE-Support-Group/116931701714390

The report has traveled pretty far in some circles–notably anywhere that uses the word ‘tech’ in or around the title. The business press has been slow to pick it up but that may be changing. The Brazilian press has covered it exhaustively, but appears to operate in total isolation from other national presses, including elsewhere in Latin America.

Re the policy community — not a peep in the US, but I can’t say that’s unexpected. The favorable coverage on this site and elsewhere has been very gratifying but I don’t think any of us (the MPEE researchers) expect the primary policy audience to be in the US. IP policy is possibly the last area of strong bipartisan consensus. I’d be astonished if our report shook that. But we do expect US policymakers to have to deal with the report as other countries take it up. That path seems more likely.

herbert says:

the reasons why this report is being, basically, ignored are simple. those that did the research and wrote the report were/are nothing to do with the ‘industries’ in question. they came to sensible conclusions based on evidence drawn from many sources, they totally debunk the BS that has been spread by those ‘industries’ as flawed at best, false at worst and most importantly, they DIDN’T GREASE THE GRUBBY, GREEDY, LITTLE PALMS OF THOSE THAT WILL DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY, EVEN WHEN THAT MEANS TAKING ALL FROM CITIZENS AND GIVING ALL TO THOSE ‘INDUSTRIES’. anyone think of further, logical, reasons? i cant. money talks and takes precedent, even when the truth is told!

coldbrew says:

Re: SSRC report, ACTA

Two questions:

1) How effective is it to file these questions in this manner, and Is there any obligation to respond?

2) Why are these questions offered in a word doc (where the file extension is incorrectly “.do”), whereas your other submissions are web-viewable?

I wish I were as active as you seem to be in trying take responsibility for these issues (not to say I agree with the Libya-related stances ’cause I didn’t dig-in). Good stuff.

FormerAC (profile) says:

My favorite part (so far)

“The limit case, in our studies, is Bolivia, where the impasse of high prices, low incomes, and ubiquitous piracy shuttered all but one local label in the early 2000s and drove the majors out altogether. The tiny Bolivian legal market, worth only $20 million at its peak, was destroyed. But Bolivian music culture was not. Below the depleted high-end commercial landscape, our work documents the emergence of a generation of new producers, artists, and commercial practices?much of it rooted in indigenous communities and distributed through informal markets. The resulting mix of pirated goods, promotional CDs, and low-priced recordings has created, for the first time in that country, a popular market for recorded music. For the vast majority of Bolivians, recorded music has never been so prolific or affordable.”

This illustrates the problem perfectly. The big multinational record companies can’t compete in the Bolivian market. So what happens when they pull out? Does music suddenly disappear, as they would have us believe? On the contrary, a vibrant local music scene has fourished,

Get over yourself big media … you aren’t needed. People will create content without you. If IP laws were entirely done away with, the only losers would be the lawyers.

Wayne Borean (profile) says:

Caught out lying

Last night I caught someone in a lie. An interesting lie. They claimed that a new band, that had released it’s first album, had gone Platinum in Canada based on illegal downloads from torrent sites. They were claiming over 100K downloads.

This got me curious. I was wondering how they got their numbers. So I did some research, and wrote the article One Soul Thrust ? Who Is Lying To Them.

One Soul Thrust is the band. The play Rock, pretty good stuff really. The fun part of this is, that when I tried to follow up the numbers, I couldn’t find a SINGLE torrent of their music. Not one. I also couldn’t find it on the Gnutella network.

I’ve talked to the band members by email. They seem like nice people, but not technologically savvy. So my feeling is that someone is trying take advantage of them. I don’t know exactly how or why, the only thing I’m certain of is that there’s money involved somewhere.


Wayne Borean (profile) says:

Oh, and...

While my last comment doesn’t have anything to do directly with this article, it points in the direction my thoughts are going.

Someone thinks that there is more money for them this way. It doesn’t matter that it might cause a lot of other people misery, they think that they can make an extra 0.05% if the rules work in this manner, so they are going to push for it. And they are pushing hard.

To bad if you disagree.

Pardon my cynicism.


Jimr (profile) says:

No Doubt

of the 440 pages how many are for coloring? How many interesting pictures? That is why the politicians do not read it.

Politicians do not care because no one have paid them off to tell them they should care. Now if the authors contributed money to their campaign….. at least more than the people who do not want them to care about it.

In either case the politicians will actually never read it. They want it summarized up in one page with lots of pictures and bundled with a wad of cash.

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