UK Academics Warn Copyright Extension Supporters Not To Fall Back Into The Evidence-Free Zone
from the please-present-some-(any)-evidence dept
Imagine a process of reviewing prescription drugs that goes like this: representatives from the drug company come to the regulators and argue that their drug works well and should be approved. They have no evidence of this beyond a few anecdotes about people who want to take it and perhaps some very simple models of how the drug might affect the human body. The drug is approved. No trials, no empirical evidence of any kind, no follow-up. Or imagine a process of making environmental regulations in which there were no data, and no attempts to gather data, about the effects of the particular pollutants being studied. Even the harshest critics of regulation would admit we generally do better than this. But this is often the way we make intellectual property policy.The one exception he highlights? Copyright extension in the UK, where the famous Gowers' Report recommended against copyright extension, based on evidence that it would do a lot more harm than good. After the report came out, Gowers actually admitted that the evidence showed that the best economic results would be to make copyright much shorter, but he didn't push that at the time, since the interest was in the other direction. Yet, despite this evidence that copyright extension would basically harm nearly everyone -- including musicians and the public -- some politicians in the UK have been saying it must be done anyway. Yes, the one case where actual economic evidence is being used... and it's being totally ignored.
The good news is that this is pissing off a lot of very smart people, who are demanding to understand why the government wants to ignore all of the evidence:
There has been some talk of 'moral arguments' for extension but it is hard to discern a compelling 'moral' case for a proposal whose prime effect is to benefit major label shareholders and a few, already highly successful, artists while imposing significantly greater costs on new creators, the general listening public and the custodians of our cultural heritage.Indeed. The moral argument for longer copyright makes no sense when the economic evidence suggests that nearly everyone is made worse off (including musicians themselves) by longer copyright. How can it possibly be moral to have everyone worse off?
As Gowers concluded, and the Government has until now consistently reaffirmed, policy-making in this area should be evidence-based and designed to promote the broader welfare of society as a whole. Policies that appear to reflect nothing more than lobbying will only perpetuate the "marked lack of public legitimacy" which the Gowers report lamented — and discourage those who wish to contribute constructively to future Government policy-making in these areas. We therefore call on the Government to present any evidence that has led to this change of policy.