The Impossible Job Of Being The Copyright Czar
from the balancing-the-unbalanceable dept
It wasn't until I read music critic Greg Kot's report on Espinel's speech, that I finally realized what the real problem is here: Espinel's job is impossible. Now I'll admit that I never thought the job made sense. The IPEC role was created by the Pro-IP law, that never made much sense in the first place. But, Espinel has been given a job that makes no sense.
Creativity is not something you protect, it's something you enable.
What you can protect are business models or specific businesses. But, Espinel seems to recognize that actually protecting certain businesses actually could harm certain forms of creativity. And, so she appears to be trying to walk a fine balancing line, of "protecting" certain industries (who, it must be admitted, are heavy political donors), while not stifling actual creativity. But, that's impossible. It rests on the idea that there is such a fine line and that there needs to be a "balance" here. But that's not how creativity or business models really work. Enabling creativity means avoiding protectionism, and avoiding restrictions. The business models shake themselves out. And while it may make life tough on businesses that don't adapt, it's silly to think that there should be a government job whose sole purpose is to keep a few companies alive.
So, if we must have an IP Czar, at some point, the internal conflicts of the job need to be sorted out. Is the job to enable and encourage creativity? Or is to protect a few companies? It can't be both. But, in trying to thread that impossible needle, the logical contradictions come through. As Kot notes in his writeup, Espinel decried the (industry-sourced) claim that 95% of downloads are infringing, but when he asked her a question about "this fundamental disconnect between the government's agenda and the way many citizens interact with their computers and cellphones in their daily lives," Espinel responded by saying "I don't see an inherent conflict. The majority of consumers don't want to engage in illegal content." But, Kot noted (not aloud, unfortunately), "didn't you just say that 95 percent of downloaders are doing exactly that?"
Such is the nature of the impossibility of the job that Espinel is in. She needs to convince the world (and, perhaps, herself) that enabling creativity and protecting a few industry interests are the same thing, when they're clearly opposed. It's the same thing as saying that 95% of downloads are illegal while still believing that people don't want to download unauthorized material. Something doesn't fit, and in the end, people are going to need to realize that enabling creativity is a lot more important than protecting the interests of a few companies who, all too often, get in the way of creativity.