We Need More People in Government Like This

A blog reader sent a message to her congressman, Tim Walz, complaining about SOPA, the bill that aims to protect intellectual property rights online that has sent many internet folks into a tizzy.

Here is the response she got from Congressman Walz:

…SOPA approaches the problem as a criminal matter when in fact, study upon study shows that online piracy is best dealt with as an economic matter. Instead of using the Justice department as a sledgehammer amongst the delicate weeds of the internet, corporations must embrace the free market and adapt their business models to compete in a new reality. The ability to adapt and compete is the cornerstone of capitalism, we should promote this rather than rushing to insert ourselves in the market in ways that could severe disrupt internet commerce and progress.

Now, I don’t 100 percent agree with this answer, but I love the spirit of it – especially coming from a Democrat!  That last sentence sounds like the argument you would get over faculty lunch in the University of Chicago department of economics.

I almost always believe in free markets as the solution to problems, but this one is tricky.  There are not a whole lot of things that I think governments are particularly good at doing, but protecting property rights is at or near the top of that list.  As Greg Mankiw so aptly writes on his blog:

The anti-SOPA crowd argues that this is a matter of basic liberty. But it’s not. In a free society, you don’t have the freedom to steal your neighbor’s property. And that should include intellectual property. Moreover, it is the function of the state to enforce those rights. We don’t leave it up to civil litigation to protect property rights (although that is part of the solution). We give the state substantial powers to stop theft. Just as owners of tangible personal property have good cause to call for a police force and a system of criminal courts, owners of intellectual property have good cause to ask the state to stop those who would infringe on their rights.

Still, my hat goes off to Congressman Walz.  I hope that he will keep the answer he gave on SOPA in his top drawer; with just a minor reworking he could use the last sentence of his response for many other constituent inquiries.


Leave A Comment

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  1. Grey Williams says:

    But go behind both sides of the argument. is intellectual “property” really equivalent or analogous to tangible property? I’ve heard it said that IP is just the ability of someone to prevent you from doing something with your own tangible property.

    When did IP originate? Has innovation increased or decreased since?

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    • Pablo says:

      Hi Grey. I will only answer on the tangible/intangible property issue.
      The law protects both goods and things. Now, consider them as genre and species whereas goods -as a genre- can be either tangible or intangible. For instance, electricity -intangible as it is- can be considered property.

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    • Mike says:

      The original justification for granting intellectual property rights was economic: X amount of intellectual property would be created in the absence of any laws protecting intellectual property, but X+Y intellectual property would be created if laws protected intellectual property.

      So the extra amount of Y intellectual property is the social good said to be created by intellectual property laws.

      This rationale leaves no room for retrospective copyright protection and suggests we should rigorously examine constantly whether, as a society, we get good value for intellectual property laws, that is do they really create enough extra works to warrant the cost on society of the enforcement of those laws and the economic costs on works which would have be created anyway whether or not the laws existed.

      This leads to a curious position since it is so easy to circumvent IP protection, we are arugably at a point where the Y level of extra works should be reducing (because those works would not be made without strong IP protection). However, there is an explosion in new works, coupled with cries for stronger protection.

      It seems to me that IP laws tend to have unintended consequences and we should really consider whether they give a net benefit to society through extra employment and works, or whether we should focus our limited time and financial resources on other issues.

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  2. Jason P. Kaplan says:

    “The anti-SOPA crowd argues that this is a matter of basic liberty.”

    Actually, my own anti-SOPA views are that SOPA would destroy the foundation of a secure internet. A lot of engineers have explained how tampering the way SOPA would like to tamper could ruin everything that’s been built up until now. As Walz so aptly put it, it’s “a sledgehammer amongst the delicate weeds of the internet”; it’s an unsightly answer to the problem of piracy.

    The issue of piracy being illegal or unethical or freedom or liberty is moot to the argument; SOPA is a bad technical answer, and would result in potential devastation. That’s why it’s been stopped.

    Since the ethical questions remain, they’ll keep looking for a solution, and will probably find it, but I agree with the Cognressman that an adaptive market would work far better than legislation.

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  3. Anthony Halsell says:

    If someone steals my jacket, I’m going to be cold because I no longer have a jacket. If someone makes a perfect copy of my jacket, we’re both warm.

    Artists should be compensated for their work, but using the word “theft” seems to disingenuously muddle the problem.

    When physical goods are stolen, the victim is the person who owns those particular goods. The guy who mined the diamonds on my watch isn’t too concerned if that watch gets stolen after I bought it – he’s already done his work and gotten paid.

    When digital media is “stolen,” the victim is a victim only in cases where the “thief” is pirating the material in lieu of purchasing it; if the pirate would never have bought that cd/movie/book if it weren’t freely available, then their relationship with the IP-owners doesn’t change when they pirate it. I don’t know how you’d demonstrate it, but I suspect that the proportion of pirates who would have bought the material if it weren’t available for download is relatively low.

    Historically, IP laws didn’t anticipate the ability to make infinite copies of a work for next to free. We need to re-think IP from a fundamental level – especially given that we’re on the cusp of being able to re-create physical goods with a 3d printer for a lower cost than buying them new — preferably, before the market for pirated CAD drawings for kitchen faucets blows up.

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    • Mike B says:

      The definition of a public good is one that is non-rival and non-exclusive. Ideas and creative works have almost always been non-rival, while excludibility has been patched on through government copyright and patent laws. The only reason these laws were ever feasible was that to copy works one needed significant infrastructure, like a printing press or film print duplicator, and it was easy for rights holders to solve any problems through private lawsuits.

      With the internet the ordinary person make and distribute copies which changes the law enforcement model from one that prohibits something like exotic drugs or firearms to one that prohibits alcohol or speeding. Not only that, the public receives genuine benefits not only from the infrastructure that is sometimes used to infringe rights, but also from infringing those rights themselves. Stricter laws will only bring about a replay of prohibition where a handful of moral scolds try to stop behavior that is not only tolerated, but embraced. Big Content needs to realize that technology has forever rendered its absolute monopoly null and void. Any attempt to maintain it will only lead to large amounts of collateral damage.

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    • James says:

      “Historically, IP laws didn’t anticipate the ability to make infinite copies of a work for next to free.”

      I believe it did: if not infinite copies for free, at least all the copies the market would bear for a significantly lower cost. Indeed, it seems that was the whole reason for copyright law: the invention of the printing press made it possible to produce many copies of any work at relatively low cost. If some author, say Will Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, produced a work and had it published, unscrupulous printers could easily copy that work and sell it at a lower cost.

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    • Mikko says:

      You are correct, copyright infringement is not technically theft, but free-riding. It’s also true that piracy is harmful only if done in lieu of purchasing. You suspect the proportion of such harmful piracy is low; others would suspect it to be high; no one truly knows.

      However, such argument is rarely used in other problems of free-riding nature. I cannot possibly imagine telling (with a straight face) a ticket officer that I wouldn’t have taken the ride in the first place had I had to pay for the ticket; nor telling an IRS agent that I wouldn’t have run a business in the first place had I had to pay taxes.

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      • Anthony Halsell says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • James says:

        “…taxation is much closer to theft than piracy. The government takes money out of the pocket of citizens and redistributes it among the people.”

        But at least in theory I am getting something in return for what the government takes from me through taxation: roads, bridges, a fire department (the value of which I experienced at first hand last week), even the benefit of not having to listen to the whines of hungry children. If someone pirates a copy of my hypothetical future novel, what have I gotten in return? And if pirating my novel becomes commonplace, will I ever bother to write it at all, thereby depriving the world of a great literary work?

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    • Aaron says:

      Maybe one way of testing the argument that few people would buy something if there was no way of obtaining it for free is by the use of software being turned into ‘abandonware’. If a game retails at $40 say, and sells 100K copies, then is released as abandonware and has 1M downloads, then this implies that 900K people weren’t prepared to pay for it. It’s not a perfect way because things aren’t released as abandonware for years after they get written, but it might tell you something.

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  4. Sam says:

    In general, the anti-SOPA crowd doesn’t have an issue with protecting intellectual property. Imagine if the government was able to lock you out of your house indefinitely or permanently solely because your neighbor claims you stole something of his and are keeping it in your house, or because he claims someone else stole something of his and is keeping it in your house without your knowledge. And all of that without any warrant or due process. This is in effect what SOPA allows the government to do in the online world, and is why there are so many people against the bill.

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  5. Allen Cook says:

    The idea that this is only about “stealing your neighbors property” is the heart of the basic liberty / free speech debate. The fact that Greg Makinaw completely sidesteps this by pretending it’s not even worth discussing just shows the growing gap of understanding here.

    “Are the speech aspects of remix/derivative works more important than the property aspects?” is the big question in the internet era. Before, it was fairly expensive to make a remix or derivative work so someone usually had to front some major cash to make one. So it made sense to prohibit this to an explicit permission model, similar to property.

    Now however, I am creating a derivative work simply by posting this comment. Not only of this website, but the layers and layers of software it takes for me to post this using a web browser (and for you to serve it to us). The idea that all uses of copyrighted work (which encompasses everything with a computer at this point) require explicit permission from the author (which in reality is several hundred people acting under a corporation) is not very plausible. Blanket licenses like EULAs kind of solve the problem but are piecemeal and prone to abuse. There’s also no enforcement mechanism available except for civil suits, which are slow and expensive. Which is what DRM tries to solve, but implementations being imperfect it can always be subverted.

    I think the offhand dismissal of the free speech issue is a pretty thoughtless thing to do, honestly. All speech we make to each other using a computer is a derivative work. Should Microsoft be able to sue you for criticizing them using Internet Explorer? Apple sue you for saying something bad about them using an iPhone? It is their derivative intellectual property, legally. Yet the speech implications of this are wide and extremely damaging

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  6. Raz says:

    Great post! Hats off to Rep Walz.

    It’s hard to describe in a few sentences the motivations and rationales of all the SOPA opponents but I recognize that it’s necessary to some degree for writing purposes. That said, I think the concern over loss of a “basic liberty” from the majority of SOPA opponents (At least this one *points thumbs at self*) is over the unintended consequences which the specific legislation is likely to incur, not an opposition to govt protection of property rights.

    It seems likely that there is a solution to property rights violations which involves a heavy reliance on free market evolutionary adaptation while also leaving our first amendment liberties unimpeded.

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  7. Scott Templeman (@tallbonez) says:

    When you steal something you are taking something of value away from someone else by either force or deceit. They lose the possession and it’s value during a theft.

    Copying does not equal stealing, and a pirated copy is not equivalent to a lost sale.

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    • natasha says:

      production of a product is a 2 stage process, research & design (cost $xyz) and manufacturing (cost $xyz). R&D is usually more costly then the actual manufacturing cost. I believe that the people who were involved in R&D should be rewarded for their hard work and creativity and everything that goes into it.
      I think copying is not theft in material sense because there is nothing real being stolen (ie. a jacket) but morally you are stealing someone’s hard work, ideas, energy and creativity they put into creating that product. Production is the easy part, it’s the ideas that change the world

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      • brazzy says:

        The point is that for most “intellectual property”, production costs are now effectively zero and anyone can do it, but they’re still supposed to pay the same price, most of which goes not to the person(s) with the “hard work, ideas, energy and creativity”, but to middlemen who used to control production.

        What we’re seeing is those middlemen fighting for their lives to prevent a development that would lead to lower prices for the consumer AND higher compensation for the actual creators at the same time.

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  8. Abe says:

    That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard a politician say in ages… Good for Congressman Walz.

    Not a Democrat

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  9. Mikko says:

    Online piracy (in any form), in an economic sense, seems like a perfect example of a free-riding problem. If tax-evasion was as widespread as copyright infringement, would anyone seriously suggest that “government just needs to adapt” and that “public services need to reinvent their business model”?

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    • Mike B says:

      Show me that this free riding has in any way reduced the supply of creative ideas and maybe you have a point.

      I say that the better argument is that these sorts of creative works have become a public good (they are non-rival and defacto non-exclusive). If production of said goods were to decline, the solution would be to use the tax system to subsudize their creation.

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    • Anthony Halsell says:

      Yes. I absolutely would suggest that government would need to adapt and re-invent their business model if tax-evasion was a widespread problem.

      The government’s power is derived from the consent of the governed. If a significant enough portion of the governed aren’t complying with government regulations, the answer is not to beat them harder or more frequently, but to evolve.

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    • Travis says:

      I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but there’s huge huge debates going on right now about fairness of the tax code.

      In essence, people arguing that others not paying their faire share (those earning money in the top 1% / those earning primarily from capital gains) are arguing that those people are free-riding.

      And the conversation right now is about fixing it, at least from many people’s point of view.

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  10. Joe says:

    This one actually isn’t all that tricky.

    Someone who suffers legitimate harm shouldn’t be allowed to buy a law outlining whatever enforcement methods they deem appropriate.

    Make your case with reasoned argument instead of lobbying dollars and maybe the rest of country will take you more seriously (you the industry groups, not you Freakonomics folks).

    Trying to buy a draconian law just makes you creepy.

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  11. alex in chicago says:

    Isn’t the biggest problem with these anti-piracy suits, litigation, and prosecution that they amount to a witch hunt? I would say less than 1% of violators get caught, but when they do, they get massive fines, maybe even jailtime. In other words, 1 persons life is ruined once a year to “make an example of them”. Wouldn’t a traffic-ticket-like system work much better? Everyone violates the speed limit at some point, but we don’t bankrupt them for doing it.

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  12. martin tetaz says:

    Actually there are two different kinds of property rights, depending on whether goods rivalize in consumption or not
    Unless someone come up with novel experimental evidence showing that sites such as megaupload or the like reduces the production of intelectual goods, the efficient rule of princing should be to equalize price and marginal cost. Since the later is roughly zero, its agains efficiency to block or penalize on line sharing


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  13. Mike B says:

    In response to Greg Mankiw, first of all “Intellectual Property” have about as much standing as property as Corporations have standing as people. It’s a term like “Death Tax” that’s meant to re-frame the debate in favor of private ownership of thoughts and ideas that were previously held to belong to society at large. How about I entertain your plans to update copyright enforcement for the 21st century when you entertain updating the concept of copyright itself for the same.

    Second even if it is the government’s duty to enforce property rights, I don’t think many people would support censorship of information about committing crime, tools that could potentially be used to commit crime and depictions of of the commission of crime. People have made arguments for all three in the past, and they have been soundly rejected as not only an infringement of our freedoms, but also being largely ineffective.

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  14. pawnman says:

    Neil Gaiman gave a great interview where he discussed how people pirating his work has actually increased his sales. The analogy he makes is this: think of your favorite author. You own all his (or her) books. Often in hardback. You pre-order their books. You watch the movies made from their books, if they exist, to see if it lives up to the written work. Now, how were you introduced to that author? Did you walk into a bookstore and buy a book, sight unseen? Unlikely (not impossible).

    The argument that piracy hurts the entertainment industry is a common one, and it seems to make logical sense on the surface. But the reality is, someone pirating music or books or movies was not likely to purchase those things anyway. Study after study has shown that there is a lack of correlation between online piracy and revenues. In fact, many of the most pirated artists are also the most successful, and many independent artists release their music for free online to generate interest in the real money-making endeavor, the concert.

    Finally, even if you agree that internet piracy is bad, and that it needs to be stopped…SOPA is just about the worst way to go about it. If you have a link to Google on your website, you can be shutdown by SOPA, because I can use Google to find pirated materials. Worse, the way they shut down your site leaves the internet muddled and unworkable. Redirecting the DNS system is what hackers do in order to spoof websites. It shouldn’t be the way the government deals with piracy.

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    • James says:

      “Did you walk into a bookstore and buy a book, sight unseen? Unlikely…”

      Not unlikely at all. In fact, that’s how I came to buy most of the books I’ve bought over the years, from browsing in the bookstore, seeing a cover blurb that looked interesting, skimming a few pages, maybe knowing that the publisher has a track record of finding good new authors, then making a decision to buy. Second most common is from finding one or two works by an author in the public library (which paid for the copies it has), then seeking out more. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of (non-text or technical) books I’ve bought through some other source.

      Likewise with music: many recordings were first purchased through browsing (in the days of actual music stores) or by hearing them on radio (which of course pays broadcast royalties). I can again count the number of live performances I’ve attended on one hand.

      Indeed, from my point of view this is one of the worst side-effects of the internet, that it has so drastically decreased the opportunities for the discovery of new authors from such browsing.

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  15. Nosybear says:

    I find your amazement that a Democrat would talk about free markets interesting. Republican bloviation aside, most of us liberals are believers in capitalism and free markets, we merely believe the benefits of capitalistic enterprise should accrue to society as well as to capitalists. We generally tend to believe in the benefits of exploratory capitalism, finding new ways of doing things, innovating, competing, rather than exploitative capitalism. Put another way, liberal capitalists love Steve Jobs and hate Mitt Romney: Both made shareholders rich; one benefited society.

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    • pawnman says:

      Steve Jobs benefited society…how? He suspended Apple’s charitable contributions and moved production to a facility overseas where working conditions are so bad they’ve been experiencing a rash of suicides.

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  16. Tucker says:

    What about the way that IP protection policy has been conducted in the last generation makes you believe that this is still a core strength of the government? Given the absurd heights that patent portfolios and lawsuits are getting to, along with the manner in which the justice department has gone after people on the RIAA’s behalf I don’t see this as something the government has been doing very well recently. If there were reasonable incentives and a higher level of confidence I think it could become good at it again, but that seems unlikely.

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  17. michelle says:

    Question: Instead of looking at all of this as theft, why can’t we look at it as marketing?
    A friend gave me a song that he bought. I had never heard this band before. I liked it so, I looked them up on You Tube. I love the band so much I then went to amazon and bought the album. Had the friend not given me the song I would have never known they even existed. That is minimally one less album they would have sold. Since I love the band I will continue to buy their other albums and, I have already been to one of their concerts. They are back in town in March for which I will be attending.
    I also have a similar example with software. I wanted some photo editing software. It is ridiculously expensive. I got on line to find out how the thing worked. I managed to find a free copy of it to try it out. Now that I see it is software I will use, I am saving my money to buy the thing. There is NO WAY I would have plunked down $900 + on something I wasn’t sure would even work for me.
    Why do we have to be so petty and greedy these days?

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  18. Craig says:

    “The anti-SOPA crowd argues that this is a matter of basic liberty. But it’s not.”

    There’s absolutely an element of basic liberty. Most of the anti-SOPA crowd isn’t against the bill because it would hurt their ability to pirate IP. We’re against it because it would hurt our ability to do legitimate things on the internet.

    Our tolerance for taking out innocent people to catch the guilty should be very low.

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  19. john king says:

    We already have laws against theft and laws that define copywrite protections etc. This new law does nothing to advance the conceptof private property, it merely lightens the burden of self protection from the movie & music crowd. It also throws in protections for them not granted under current law that would stifle innovation and even criminalize innocent behavior. While it does not constitute strict prior restraint, it creates an atmosphere that will mimic it for the benefit of these industries.

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  20. Consumer says:

    “In a free society, you don’t have the freedom to steal your neighbor’s property. And that should include intellectual property.” – I am going to pick on the word SHOULD here. That word implies an opinion that Mr. Mankiw has rather than a fact.

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  21. Eric M. Jones says:

    “…but I love the spirit of it – especially coming from a Democrat!..”

    So you freely admit your bias?….That pretty much disqualifies you from having an objective view.

    You should be ashamed, but I expected it…coming from a Republican.

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  22. Consumer says:

    Here is a translation of Mr. Walz’s response:
    It is now the 21st century and it is time to move on. The copyright law in its current form served its purpose but today’s reality is different. With or without SOPA people will continue to copy proiducts of art and science simply because they can. If a businesses want to survive in this reality, they’d better adapt istead of pushing for band aid laws that will simply prolong the agony.

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  23. Rishi Arora says:

    Greg Mankiw is equating intellectual property with physical property. That doesn’t seem reasonable, given that its much easier to prove, for example who a house belongs to, than to prove who came up with the idea of a plot for a movie first. So, for the latter, we should resort to a court trial where evidence can be produced and fairly examined to determine the property rights. SOPA advocates bypassing the litigation. Also, anti-SOPA folks aren’t against the spirit of the law. They are against the way the law is written, which would give broad authority to the state to block specific internet traffic based solely on a complaint. That’s what threatens freedom.

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  24. Neil (SM) says:

    There’s nothing apt about Mankiw’s excerpt. The intellectual property SOPA attempts to protect has a fundamental difference from tangible property: it is an infinite good. The theft analogy breaks down in comparison.

    Also, it misses another important point: due process. We protect our tangible property with courts and police that investigate alleged crimes, and place the burden on the prosecutors to prove that the accused committed the crime in question. The current and proposed laws are written in such a way that they allow the accusers to completely bypass all of that.

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  25. Falling Rock says:

    “One for the blackbird, one for the crow, One for the cut-worm, and two to grow”

    The problem of piracy is an old one, and people have found ways of dealing with it.

    If I felt like the effected creators weren’t making a living, then I guess I’d be more sympathetic. I’m often told that people aren’t owed a living, I don’t know how I feel about that, but I do know that no one is owed a killing.

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  26. Kirion says:

    Intellectual “property” rather obviously is not a property at all. For starters, it prevents others from realizing their property rights. It’s (at least in US) government granted monopoly, which should be regulated properly

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  27. aepxc says:

    Piracy is a headache. SOPA/PIPA is a guillotine. A guillotine does indeed fix a headache, but in an unacceptable way.

    Thus, the question before us is whether we can find a way to fight the headache on completely different principles than head-chopping. If we can, great. If we cannot, we have to learn to live with the headache. If this means that the entertainment industry has to shrink, so be it – governments should protect property, but it is up to the individual to decide just how much unprotectable property (IF AND ONLY IF we find there are no fundamentally different approaches) to produce.

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  28. Anders says:

    The Mankiw quote really misses the point. I don’t know any SOPA opponents who think that there should be a right to steal IP. He makes the profoundly mistaken assumption that SOPA would do a lot to curb piracy, and very little to interfere with legitimate Internet use. The reality is very much the opposite, so far as I can tell. http://t.co/Er7w3ryg

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  29. Lori Cereteg says:

    We should have similar enforcement for online digital piracy as for similar offline theft (such as bootlegging DVDs).

    If I’m bootlegging DVDs and selling them from my store, the owner will make a complaint, there will be an investigation and if it’s a serious offense a grand jury will indict me, the police will arrest me, and I’ll get a (presumably fair) trial.

    You don’t sieze the entire office building that my business uses, and force the phone company to de-list the phone numbers of my neighbors and the post office to stop delivering mail to the whole building, and especially not on the rightsholder’s sole say-so and without any independent investigation, indictment, or trial. That’s what’s wrong with SOPA.

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  30. Mike in sjc says:

    It seems laws are often made in the streets before they are formally enacted in the halls of Congress. Witness the repeal of prohibition, and the probable eventual legalization of certain drugs. I am not saying mass violation of a law is grounds for repealing it, but it is certainly justification for re-examining it. If ninety percent of drivers exceed the speed limit, perhaps the limit is actually low for that location.
    I don’t know anyone that buys a cd or dvd anymore. Period. I don’t know anyone who uses a typewriter either. It just seems evolving technology has left the concept of intellectual property rights in the dust. Dropping the legal hammer on file-sharing operations seems somewhat futile. As the guy in Jurassic Park said, nature finds a way.
    My grandfather was a union carpenter. The union limited the weight of his hammer and the length of the handle to artificially keep his production low. SOPA reminds me of that same mentality.

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  31. Gervase Markham says:

    The problems with Greg’s point are that:

    1) they aren’t asking the state to enforce the property right; they are asking for powers which bypass due process, and assume guilt until innocence can be proved. The no-SOPA crowd are not all “yay! copyright infringement!”, it’s about the disproportionality of the proposed response.

    2) “In a free society, you don’t have the freedom to steal your neighbor’s property. And that should include intellectual property” is enormously question-begging. Is intellectual property the same in all respects as physical property? Clearly no – which is one reason “intellectual property” is a bad name for it. So one cannot say “And that should include intellectual property” without justifying the statement. If I copy someone else’s copyrighted work, I have not deprived them in the same way that I have if I steal their car. You could argue I have deprived them of “lost profits” – but it’s a clear fallacy to say that every copied work is a lost profit somewhere for a creator. And it’s certainly not money lost to the economy as a whole; it’ll just get spent on something else.


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  32. vtrue says:

    The numbers quoted on piracy are based on an entirely different market according to this article. I agree with Walz, the industries involved need to find a way to adjust to the market, instead of making the new adjust to them. When refrigerators were invented, companies that used to cut ice from lakes and delivery it via wagon could have complained the same way. Every new advance in society undermines a previous “business” opportunity. If government had stepped in to protect established business that are going extinct then nothing would have innovated. But there also needs to be a way to dovetail innovation with responsibility.

    “The $200–250 billion number had originated in a 1991 sidebar in Forbes, but it was not a measurement of the cost of “piracy” to the U.S. economy. It was an unsourced estimate of the total size of the global market in counterfeit goods. Beyond the obvious fact that these numbers are decades old, counterfeiting of physical goods imported in bulk and sold by domestic retail distributors is, rather obviously, a totally different phenomenon with different policy implications from the problem of illicit individual consumer downloads of movies, music, and software. The 750,000 jobs number had originated in a 1986 speech (yes, 1986) by the secretary of commerce estimating that counterfeiting could cost the United States “anywhere from 130,000 to 750,000? jobs. Nobody in the Commerce Department was able to identify where those figures had come from.”

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  33. Eric Ségui says:

    Human language is able to put a name on non existent thing, when you name unicorns of flying pigs, you dont turn them in existing things. Is it possible than intellectual property is such a non existent thing with a name ?

    The french geneticist Albert Jacquard believe so, and compare it with a rainbow: you can see it, you can name it, but if you believe in its physical existence, you will want to claim property on it, and maybe cut it in pieces and sell it to people to put in their houses.
    http://www.actualitte.com/actualite/monde-edition/societe/derriere-propriete-intellectuelle-se-camoufle-un-desir-de-tromper-23098.htm (french)

    But if intellectual property does not exist, from where come the economical value which attract so much majors company ? As an analogy, from where come the value of a patent ? Does it come from the idea described in the patent, or does it come from the exclusivity granted by the society ? It may be painful, but the greatest part of the value of a patent come probably from the exclusivity granted by the society, as the economical value of a patent drop to zero when the exclusivity end.

    So, if the value of the intellectual property does not come from it’s creator, but from the society, is it really property, and does it exist at all ?

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  34. Carl C says:

    Make piracy illegal? Yes, absolutely.
    Shut down websites without due process? No way.

    The problem with SOPA & PIPA is that they attempt to achieve justice for some, while trampling on the rights of others.

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  35. john king says:

    Cong. Walz is correct in that the industries trying to get government to help them avoid the heavy work of adapting to the reality they face is where we constantly go wrong. The auto & steel industries tried over and over to have government protect them from competition. In so doing they avoided modernizing plant & equipment so that we now have little of those industries left. Intellectual property has to be protected from theft but theives will try to use any device to rob. Blaming the tool used to steal and restricting all who use it, legitimate or not, isn’t the best use of capital & assets nor does it advance the cause of those who want to protect their property. If someone is going to steal your property, he will use the best tool available. Gun control has not stopped gun violence and any law written to take away my right & ability to use the internet will do nothing to prevent thieves from copying movies or songs. A SOPA or PIPA as currently envisioned will severly restrict the internet and stifle innovation. Government is a blunderbuss that kills all in its line of fire with little evidence that its targets are hit.

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  36. donnie says:

    Is Greg Mankiw missing the point here, or just oversimplifying the argument?

    The problem with SOPA is that criminalises file sharing sites, which are used to share files illegally and, also, to share files perfectly legitimately. This means that in protecting the rights of one group of people – copyright holders – it also infringes on the rights of others – legitimate file shares. Which as far as I can see doesn’t really happen with copyright laws in the real world….

    Has Mankiw revealed himself as an ideological republican, rather than the rational one he puts himeslef about as?

    Just asking…

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