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.
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Filed Under: copyright alliance, free markets, patrick ross


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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 12 Sep 2007 @ 9:40am

    Re: Let's see...

    But to say that the government has no place in enforcing intellectual property in a free market is ridiculous. Protecting property rights includes protecting the time, money and effort invested into developing something of value. Just because there is a means of cheaply distributing that valuable product does not lessen the expenditure of resources required to produce the initial product.

    a truly free market is truly free of government intervention. they teach you that on the first day of econ 101:

    A free market describes a theoretical, idealised market where the prices of goods and services is arranged completely by the mutual non-coerced consent of sellers and buyers, determined generally by the supply and demand law with no government interference in the regulation of costs, supply and demand.

    every single time the government does anything to the market, the market becomes less free.

    free markets are about people, not lobbies and not corporations. free markets are about informed consumers and competition based on price and quality. anything that is anti-consumer is by definition anti free market. anything that is anti-competitive is by definition anti free market.

    what is the real cost of making content? what is the real investment? the costs that go into production of content are artificially high thanks to the high barriers of entry into the content market because of the monopoly power that copyright holders wield due to copyright law.

    how much does it really cost to write a book? how much does it really cost to make a song? how much does it really cost to make a movie? we don't know. all we know is what the content cartels tell us it costs. cartels are anti-competitive.

    in a truly free market you don't sell things at a price that you like, you sell them at a price that the market is willing to pay. markets do that because they are about consumers, not corporations.

    that is the problem with content pricing. the market can bear paying next to nothing for it. many consumers pay nothing and do it easily. if you can't bear selling it for the price the market is willing to pay, then get the hell out of the market and take your copyrights with you.


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