The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding an oversight hearing today on the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC, aka the “IP Czar”). Yesterday, IPEC issued its first ever Report on U.S. intellectual property enforcement. Despite much trepidation that it would come out as the usual one-sided “we must do whatever Hollywood says, treat our customers as potential criminals, and generally act like clumsy arrogant idiots,” it turned out pretty reasonable (even given our standards started abysmally low). You can see my employer PK’s press release here. Critically, the report contained language reflecting the need for balance between mechanisms that ensure that creators get paid while ensuring that people can keep building on previous work (that whole ‘seeing further by standing on the shoulders of giants‘ thing). Here’s the money quote from the report:
One of the reasons that the U S is a global leader in innovation and creativity is our early establishment of strong legal mechanisms to provide necessary economic incentives required to innovate. By the same token, fair use of intellectual property can support innovation and artistry Strong intellectual property enforcement efforts should be focused on stopping those stealing the work of others, not those who are appropriately building upon it.
Which brings us to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA started life as a trade agreement to deal with actual problems with counterfeiting. Then, when the IP Mafia were blocked from pursuing their agenda of optimizing the Internet for copyright enforcement and shifting cost of enforcement to ISPs and users as part of the WIPO Broadcast Treaty, they wandered over to the ACTA negotiations and hijacked those (with an able assist from their career civil servant buddies in the relevant agencies). As others have chronicled before, the Entertainment Industry and Pharma has done a bang up job of persuading everyone to keep negotiations secret and hold everything else in the Agreement hostage to what I will refer to — in my completely unbiased and analytical way — as the Crazy Stuff/IP Mafia Wish List. The result is that when most people, including President Obama, talk about the need to pass ACTA, they focus on the normal stuff that most folks agree on. <i>i.e.</i> how to crack down on mobsters selling tens of thousands of bogus GAP jeans and Channell handbags. The stuff that freaks everyone out and generates resistance from other governments, however, is the “Crazy Stuff” pushed by the IP Mafia.
In the latest installment of Five Minutes With Harold Feld, I propose a very simple approach for those (like President Obama) who want to see ACTA passed so we can go after real criminals doing us real economic harm. DITCH THE CRAZY STUFF. Conclude a deal on the stuff everyone agrees about and let Hollywood go back to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to negotiate this stuff in what passes for a public process there (and hey, lets face it, if Hollywood can’t convince WIPO to agree to their wish list, it really and truly is out of the mainstream crazy stuff).
Stay tuned . . . .