A few days ago, Noutheteo asked:
From an economic standpoint, what is your opinion of SOPA/PIPA and the recent “blackout”? Is there a need for government to intervene with intellectual property laws, and if so, is the SOPA/PIPA route appropriate? On a similar note: any thoughts on the book Against Intellectual Monopoly?
I’m doing my best to read the book before I get another batch of essays to grade. It may well change my opinions on the matter of intellectual property, so there’ll be a part two coming along one day. Now, allow me to ramble:
Like the overwhelming majority of people who have commented on the matter, and probably like most congressmen who would vote on the matter, I haven’t read either SOPA or PIPA. The rumors and the one-page warnings worry me, though. I don’t like the idea that I could be punished because one of my commenters posts a link to protected materials.
If the feds already have the ability to shut down a website like Megaupload without SOPA/PIPA, then one wonders and worries about what additional purpose would SOPA/PIPA serve. If SOPA or PIPA were to pass, I think we’d someday see (hopefully futile) efforts to regulate political content on the internet, a la the old Fairness Doctrine.
I hope the government would act to protect my intellectual property just as they would act to protect other types of my property. The problem is one of cost and benefit as much as it is one of morality: at what point does it become simply unfeasible for the government to protect my property? There was no 50-man task force to track down the guy who tried breaking into my house three years ago– they had nothing to go on but a messed-up footprint. It is so simple and inexpensive to pirate IP, and so complicated and expensive to stop piracy, that one wonders if intellectual property law will soon resemble those warnings you see in deserts or mountains: proceed at your own risk. Publish at your own risk.
It looks like technology has come to the point where we have to revolutionize intellectual property law whether we want to or not. Either shift the paradigm, or watch the paradigm become useless.
Now that I think about it, maybe we have an unspoken contempt for intellectual property law. I’ve met a few people in the education field who were sincerely angry that someone might sell academic materials instead of freely giving them away.
I loved the day of protest, especially since I could still read Wikipedia via smartphone. In keeping with my the topics of my last few posts, I would point out that the reaction to SOPA was very Hayekean– “spontaneous order,” if you will.
But perhaps I’m conflating piracy with theft and/or plagiarism. I’ll have to finish the book, won’t I?
By the way, if you remember any part of this in your brain, I’m going to sue you.
I think there’s a much simpler way to explain the NFL’s playoff rule: it’s sudden-death, except that the game cannot end on a field goal on the first possession of OT.