Restoring Balance to Intellectual Property Rules

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Paul Hyland
The Adrenaline Group, Inc.; CPSR - DC

Intellectual property laws and regulations are going way overboard. If this trend continues, creativity will be stifled, and consumers of content will be prohibited from benefiting from IP and even penalized for activities that were previously allowed.


This pattern applies wherever creators want to be able to distribute their content in new ways, where they might not have been able to in a more mediated environment, and where consumers want to get the most out of the content they consume, even using it to help create content themselves. It also applies wherever the parochial interests of the entrenched content industries threaten to stifle technological advancement and potentially economic vitality in the long term.


Intellectual property laws are specifically authorized in the constitution, to provide a balance between the rights of creators and consumers of creative content, such that creators will have sufficient incentive to create more and better content, and consumers will be able to benefit from said content in a variety of ways. Such protections are to be limited and balanced, so that consumers would derive maximum benefit, and so that subsequent creativity would be able to benefit and build upon what came before.

Current trends in intellectual property law tip that balance profoundly toward creators (or more often owners) of content, extending their rights and limiting those of consumers of content -- while generally not directly benefitting many of the creators either. The Internet and digital technologies are often cited as the reason laws need to be "updated" to ensure that new technologies don't undermine them.

Laws and regulations in this area increasingly seek to control the course of technological development. Content industries claim that this is necessary so that new technology doesn't enable easier circumvention of intellectual property rights. However, such control is threatening to stifle the progress of technological development, to harm an unrelated industry in the name of protecting an existing one.

General purpose computers, open-source software, and other basic research tools and the bases for current and future technological development that has fueled recent and future economic advancement, is threatened by an industry trying to preserve its status quo. Thus are laws initially intended to foster creativity and advancement actually employed to the opposite effect.


Work to educate computer professionals, policymakers and the public the wrongheadedness of current trends in IP law, eventually to restore the balance intended in the constitution. Demonstrate the valuable and creatively vital intelllectual products that can result from a freer IP regime.

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