from the that's-not-going-to-go-over-too-well dept
One of the more stunning things about the defeat of SOPA/PIPA and what appears to be the likely defeat of ACTA, is how the traditional copyright maximalists still haven’t figured out what has happened or what it means. It seems positively unfathomable to them that the public got fed up with their shenanigans and said “enough is enough.” That’s why their first reaction was to blame companies and lobbyists — because that’s the only way they function. Now they’re trying to figure out how to fight back.
Last week, at the Fordham IP conference, which is a yearly gathering of mostly IP-maximalists, it seems that this attitude was on display in full force. Rebecca Tushnet’s recap of some of the sessions is really quite stunning — including a comment from a Fordham professor who apparently claimed that democracy was a bad thing because the public went against strict IP rights. As Tushnet noted:
Hugh Hansen suggesting that democracy was a really bad thing because citizens think short term and elites give us rights, and that’s why IP can only be protected without democracy, or as he put it, with “filters.” (If by “us” you mean white men holding property. I do not believe I am exaggerating: he pointed to revolutionary Virginia as the great model for providing rights and the rest of American history as decline as things were turned over to the greedy proles. I obviously beg to differ, and this November the Commonwealth will indeed let me vote. I understand that Hansen likes to provoke, but the ugliness of his claims should not go unremarked.)
Of course, this kind of elitist attitude seemed to permeate the event. Jamie Love alerted us to the news that European IP professor Mihaly Fiscor compared ACTA protests to Nazi rallies — thus invoking Godwin’s Law and ensuring that any reasoned debate will not be allowed.
One thing became clear: there is not even the slightest concern that perhaps the public has a point. No, sir. It must be that they’re too clueless or uninformed to know what’s best for them. Back in Tushnet’s post above, she describes how Steve Metalitz — a maximalist lawyer whose fingerprints appear on lots of ridiculous proposals, including ACTA — said that the problem is that people don’t know enough to know that they have to respect copyright for our own economic well-being. Hugh Hansen, the same guy who is apparently anti-democracy, went with the old trope that should automatically disqualify you from being taken seriously in these debates, by saying that “consumers will only be moral if they’re taught that copying is wrong. Copying is just like shoplifting.” The thing is, that line has been “copied” so many times, I guess we can conclude that Hugh Hansen is one immoral bastard. Of course, reality tells us that copying is nothing like shoplifting. But, I guess, if you want to close off any real conversation, you toss out ridiculous statements that are so laughable that no one takes you seriously.
Even David Kappos, the head of the US Patent Office — and someone who should know better — made a condescending comment about how “the adults in the room know” that everyone has to pay up for patent, or they’re going to get sued. As Tushnet notes in response, things change once the people realize that the system is broken:
I couldn’t help but think in response to Kappos about what a lawyer might have said pre-NYT v. Sullivan etc.: “the adults in the room know that if you say negative things about public officials you’re going to get sued.” Sounds sort of like wisdom, but this conference isn’t just practice pointers, or at least I hope it isn’t; maybe it’s an adult thing to give up on a better world, but I don’t think so.
Of course, it doesn’t stop at just this one event. When I was in London last week, I learned of meeting to figure out how to respond to the “unprecedented attacks on IP rights.” In the article about it, they highlight all of the awful things that the darn public has done lately:
Already this year, we have seen the blackout of websitesincluding Wikipedia that led to the shelving of the SOPA and PIPA legislation in the United States, and an organised attack on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe, which has led to a delay in ratification and its possible abandonment.
In India, organisations like UNITAID haveprotested efforts to strengthen patent protection through free trade agreements, arguing they threaten affordable access to medicines in developing nations.
The panelists will discuss why IP owners, governments and others involved in the IP system need to address the more active and organised voices in civil society with communication, case studies and events.
Once again, it’s not even considered possible that all of these actions were because of legitimate complaints. There isn’t even the suggestion that perhaps some of this push back was due to massive and sustained overreach from the maximalists. Nope. It’s all those stupid people in the public who need to be told by “the adults in the room” what’s best for them, and any of their voices need to be “countered.”
Either way, one thing seems clear: the usual maximalists aren’t about to stop pushing for maximalism and actually listen to the concerns of the public. Instead, they’re about to go on the offensive, looking to tar and feather those who bring actual facts and evidence to the table.