Why Do We Let Those Who Benefit Most From Monopolies Write The Laws That Grant Them?

from the it's-a-problem dept

Rick Falkvinge's latest piece at TorrentFreak covers an important issue: the fact that all too often those who write our patent and copyright laws are lawyers practicing in the space. That is, they're the people who benefit the most from perpetuating the system and expanding it further. That's not to say that all copyright and patent lawyers always think expanding the laws are better, but it is pretty common -- and when you get to the folks crafting the laws, it's very common. The article highlights an all too common occurrence, in which a patent or copyright holder threatens or sues someone, and the person or company sued pays up because it's cheaper to pay than to go to court:
And so, another “license” is paid up, and copyright lawyers use it as proof to politicians that licenses are paid and the system works. It’s circular reasoning at its most insidious.

The danger here lies in the difference of perspective: lawyers and politicians regard court proceedings as having zero cost, as basically being a correspondence or a negotiation. In the reality entrepreneurs live in, however, the court cost of a monopoly lawsuit can easily hit a million euros.
Of course, it can be even worse than having them just write the laws. There's the infamous case of Giles Rich, the patent lawyer who wrote a large part of the 1952 Patent Act... and then went on to become a judge at CAFC where he ruled on the interpretations of the law he, himself, had written. People note that he's had more influence than anyone on patent law in the US in the modern era... and almost all of it was in one direction only. And this kind of thing happens all the time... because politicians think that the people to ask for how to write patent and copyright laws are the lawyers rather than the businesses and citizens who will be most impacted by these laws:
So the next time the monopoly laws need revision and redrafting, the politicians go to the monopoly lawyers with demonstrated understanding of the substance matter. Politicians note that the lawyers have been correct in their predictions that license money would start to flow, and take it as proof the system works; they can’t see or know money is flowing for all the wrong reasons.

And so, the monopoly lawyers get to expand and revise those laws yet again, when it was nothing but a legalized extortion racket from the start. The cycle continues.

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  1. icon
    E. Zachary Knight (profile), 19 Apr 2011 @ 11:00am

    Same for all laws that grant a monopoly

    This doesn't just apply to patents and copyrights. There are states that have laws requiring interior designers to get a government issue license for which they have to got to school for a couple of years and then become an apprentice to a licensed designer for even more years before they can start their own business. Who wanted these laws? It wasn't the people who hire interior designers. It was the then working interior designers? Why did they want these laws? To restrict competition.

    Funeral Homes are another example. In Oklahoma and Louisiana as well as other states, it is illegal to sell caskets unless you are a fully licensed and operating funeral home. There is currently a lawsuit in Louisiana brought by a monastery who made and sold cheap plain caskets to help pay for their monastery. Who wanted these laws? Not patrons of funeral homes. It was operators of Funeral Homes.

    Same thing for florists in Texas. It is illegal to pick and arrange flowers without a license from the state that is approved by licensed florists.

    Do I need to go on?

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