So Many Similarities Between Copyright Law And Prohibition

from the time-to-deal-with-reality dept

A few months ago, we pointed to a video by ReasonTV, which noted that the over-enforcement of copyright law today had become this generation's Prohibition. While that might be slight (or significant) hyperbole, law professor Donald Harris has put together a fantastic paper that compares the two situations and finds an awful lot of similarities. Harris was recently on Jerry Brito's Surprisingly Free podcast to discuss the paper, and it was a very interesting and thoughtful discussion. It won't surprise many to recognize the obvious parallels between the situations:
Alcohol Prohibition during the 1920s and 1930s provide an historical example of the dangers of attempting to enforce a public policy that is inconsistent with society’s values and attitudes. Alcohol Prohibition failed because the people effectively nullified the law through widespread civil disobedience. There, as here, increased enforcement efforts failed. Prohibition teaches that it is impossible to enforce broad social norms that are inconsistent with widespread human behavior. This is consistent with compliance theory, which posits that societal compliance with laws will occur only when society believes the laws are just and legitimate.
In the end, Harris appears to come down in favor of a similar solution to the way that Prohibition ended: legalizing the activity in question (and regulating it). For example, he suggests that clearly-defined non-commercial file sharing could be legalized. I'm not sure that I agree completely with the argument, but it's still quite an interesting paper to read and podcast to listen to, so check them out.

Filed Under: copyright, donald harris, prohibition


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  1. icon
    Gwiz (profile), 20 Aug 2012 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Might not want to use Google when discussing "legal". lol

    They just got nailed for another 22 million dollar fine.




    Wow. First you spout crap off the top of your head like it's the Gospel truth and refuse to give any citations or links to back it up. And now you take a week old headline and contort it painfully to score some kind of point against some imaginary adversary you've built in your own head.

    Google's fine had nothing at all do do with anything illegal. It was about tracking cookies and the fact Google promised not to do that without disclosure. They forgot the disclosure part and got called out on it.

    And this was a settlement anyways, which is nothing more than a statement of nolo contendere as far as I am concerned.

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