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

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2012 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    no, farce

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.