Friday, January 20, 2012

PIPA and SOPA: Just Whose "Property" Is It, Anyway?

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw writes on his blog that:
In a free society, you don't have the freedom to steal your neighbor's property. And that should include intellectual property.
Should it?  Why? Because Intellectual Property is called "property"?

What we have here is homonyms being mistaken for synonyms.

Simply put, calling an apple an orange doesn't make it one.

Intellectual Property (IP) has a completely different status both in law and culture than does physical property. Conflating the two simply confuses issues of the provenance of creative activity and rights for profiting from it, rights limited from the get-go by the US Constitution.

So let's stop these analogies, making IP the same as physical property, can we, please?

Moving on:

I've a suggestion for those trying to craft anti-piracy laws: Why not, while finding ways of strengthening protection for new creative output, make a trade-off? Roll back copyright extensions to, say, the creator's lifetime only or, for corporate holders, to a maximum of 75 years. That way, the intellectual commons won't be nearly so threatened and it will appear that those wanting greater protection now are also ceding something. I think many of us who are anti-SOPA and PIPA right now would feel a lot better about the desire to protect if there were a more magnanimous aspect to the argument, too.

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