Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presto! Property

Stewart Baker on intellectual property:
Conservatives — and especially libertarians — seem like a cheap date on this issue. You’d think libertarians would have been in the forefront of objecting to governmental intrusions into our lives at the behest of a special interest — let alone the creation of a new class of quasicriminals, defined as more or less everyone who entered high school after 1996, who can be investigated and prosecuted whenever the government or some member of industry decides that they are too troublesome.

But no. For a lot of libertarians, judging by the comments to David’s post, all the RIAA has to do is call its new government-created entitlement a form of property, and, presto bingo, it’s sacrosanct.

Come to think of it, maybe I can persuade readers here that TSA’s new enhanced security measures are just fine — as long as we enforce the rules by giving all the passengers on the plane a “property” right not to travel with people who refuse body imaging and enhanced patdowns. Instead of relying on oppressive government regulation, we’d just let the passengers collect millions in “statutory damages” from noncompliant travelers.

He's riffing off of Larry Lessig's Free Culture here. The whole post is worth a read.


N. Friedman said...

Copyrights are supposed to be a limited right, one that finds its mandate in the Constitution. There is the work itself (i.e. the creative endeavor), the copy of the work (i.e. what you buy in a book store) and the copyright. It is certainly the case that 28 years, renewable, has begotten life plus 75 years.

On the other hand, the court system has shrunk the scope of what is copyrightable. At one time, copyright protected the so-called sweat of the brow - e.g., efforts at collecting data - so that it is clear that only the expression of an idea, not the idea itself, is copyrightable. Moreover, copyright used to be, at the drop of a hat, owned by the party who paid for its creation. Now, so called work made for hire is limited to true employment relations or agreements involving certain classes of works which the contracting parties decide to call works for hire. Assignment of rights, at one time, occurred on sale of the original copy. Now, most courts require a real transfer.

So, things are not just one way. For photographers and advertisers, rights have improved - due to improvements in the noted work made for hire and assignment areas of that part of the law.

So, I am not quite sure I agree with the author of the piece although, of course, the point about what libertarians may think is kind of beside the point.

N. Friedman said...

Not 75. That was an error.