Friday, December 18, 2009

IP Watch Video Interview

When I was in Geneva two weeks ago, I gave a 16 minute video interview to Intellectual Property Watch, a Geneva-based publication. Here is the link. Other than the very beginning, where it looks like I am posing for a death mask, the interview is, I think, a good summary of what I was trying to accomplish in writing the book, and it contains analysis of how one metaphor ("a rising tide lifts all boats") works.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dan Glickman's Moral Panic

When I worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, one of my favorite Congressmen was Dan Glickman, of Kansas. (Another was Howard Berman). Mr. Glickman, along with 34 other Democrats, was defeated in the Republican 1994 electoral rout, and the following year he became President Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture, where he served with great distinction. In 2004, he succeeded Jack Valenti as head of the Motion Picture Association of America -- a hard act for anyone to follow. He recently announced he would retire at the end of his contract next year. Mr. Glickman has always been a sensible person, not given to extreme statements, and more interested in working through problems than in creating them. High-flying rhetoric is out of character.

For this reason, I was surprised by a story in Wired back in late November about a letter he sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on ACTA. It didn't surprise me that MPAA strongly supports ACTA, but what did surprise me was the letter's effort to create a moral panic about those who oppose ACTA. In the letter, he says :

Opponents of ACTA are either indifferent to [worldwide piracy]
or actively hostile toward efforts to improve copyright enforcement
worldwide. Many of them decried the WTO TRIPS agreement when it
came into force in the 1990's and they now insist that any effort to
build upon the TRIPS minimum standards for enforcement is
"anti-consumer" and "anti-innovation."

None of those statements are true, and there is an unfortunate, careless eliding of a number of points to misstate positions. The parts of ACTA that are controversial are not the parts that deal with customs and counterfeiting enforcement. Aside from some early wild conjectures about the scope of ACTA's customs proposals caused by the secrecy of the text, no one, as far as I know, has been critical of the very provisions that concern actual enforcement of rights against counterfeiters: MPAA is right to want to stamp out such conduct, and if improvements in global standards are required, we should improve them.There is no indifference or hostility on this issue.

The next part of the statement about opposition to TRIPS is also false. I worked on the TRIPS implementing legislation on the House. Mr. Glickman did not, presumably, he was rightly focused on the agricultural provisions. I am not aware of anyone (much less "many") who at the time decried the TRIPS provisions on enforcement. No one called them anti-consumer or anti-innovation, or was hostile or indifferent to counterfeiting.

Let's debate the merits of proposals, and skip the false rhetoric.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bravo United States

Today, at the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights in Geneva, various statements were introduced by governments on a proposed treaty for the visually impaired. In the interest of full disclosure, my employer recently submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office a statement in support of the treaty (See here). A number of developing countries' positions were disappointing in their lack of meaningful support of the proposed treaty. Certainly if those making statements in actual opposition had available to them the minuscule amount the visually impaired have, their views would be quite different. Theirs is a failure both of compassion and a failure to recognize the positive role of copyright in furthering access. Some apparently are willing to sacrifice the neediest in order to hold on to more than they already deserve. It is easy to find reasons not to do something; the mark of a generous and compassionate soul is finding reasons to do something.

In this context, I applaud and we all should applaud the statement submitted by United States (available here). The statement is the most genuinely balanced and forward-looking U.S. government document on copyright I have read since the days of the great Registers of Copyrights, Abraham Kaminstein and Barbara Ringer. Kudos to Justin Hughes, head of the U.S. delegation. I quote only the final paragraph, but one should read it all:

We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view. The United States is committed to both better exceptions in copyright law and better enforcement of copyright law. Indeed, as we work with countries to establish consensus on proper, basic exceptions within copyright law, we will ask countries to work with us to improve the enforcement of copyright. This is part and parcel of a balanced international system of intellectual property.