A Key Myth That Drives Bad Policy: Stronger IP Laws Mean More Creativity

from the debunk-it dept

Ars Technica has an article highlighting Rep. Marsha Blackburn's "conservative tech policy goals," which has a heavy focus on ramping up intellectual property laws and enforcement. Of course, I don't see how that's any different than the "liberal tech policy" these days. Of course, this reinforces the general point that intellectual property issues are not partisan, as both major parties seem to be beholden to the interests of those who abuse IP laws.

However, as Ars demonstrates, Blackburn makes a fundamental economic fallacy in her reasoning -- and it's this fallacy that seems to be made over and over again in debates about intellectual property:
Proposition 1: The ascendant economic sector is the Creative Economy

Proposition 2: The primary commodity in this economy is intellectual property.

Proposition 3: The Creative Economy thrives online, in what is a unique, prosperous, and until recently free marketplace.
The mistake is thinking that "intellectual property laws" are the same as creative output. It's a nefarious fallacy that we see all the time. It leads to the false claim that "more IP = more creative economy." And yet, the final point in the list kind of highlights the fallacy. In fact, studies that looked into the reasons why creativity has thrived online found that it was often the absence of strict IP enforcement that resulted in such a free and open marketplace.

Furthermore, the whole basis of this line of thinking is to ignore that much of what has made the internet valuable is not that it's a broadcast medium for professional content, but that it's a communications medium, built around sharing content and speech. As Ars properly notes:
It results in a view of tech policy that is all about increasing the protection for intellectual property with little concern for the important connectivity, civic participation, and access to knowledge the Internet also provides--think e-mail, the robust political debate at online blogs, and Wikipedia, none of which need "stronger" IP protections.
It's really quite unfortunate that so many of our elected officials, no matter what their political party, seem to have fallen for the same fallacy, that seeks to turn the internet into the next version of television, rather than focusing on what the internet actually does well.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jan 2011 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re:

    China's workforce doesn't define it's costs. It's the level of lifestyle and the total absence of unions that makes much of the difference. People are willing to work (and work hard) for less per day than most Wal-mart cashiers make in an hour. That is all to do with the way of life, the cost of living, and so on.

    China is also coming to grips with inflation, and they understand over time that they will not have the pure labor cost advantage at the level they have it now. If they adjust their currency in a freer way, that will move it even more (but will likely cause inflation in the US, as the cost of goods would go up). There is such a huge margin that labor costs in China could double and still no US workers would want to work for that salary, living in the US.

    There is a lot at play here.

    For the moment, the risk/return on IP isn't working in the US because other countries can easily replicate it and do it cheaper than the US can, even without any protections. Understanding that, it makes it clear why IP can be the US's friend, not it's enemy.

    Otherwise, it's a race to the bottom, and the Chinese already have the bottom all taken care of.

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