President Obama Says Some Good Things About Net Neutrality and Intellectual Property.

Everyone likes to get mad at President Obama these days. So I figured I would briefly highlight some good things Obama said during this Town Hall Meeting last week while I was off doing the Jewish holiday thing. After the holiday, I saw an email with the subject: “Obama Talks About Net Neutrality & Intellectual Property.”


I am sufficiently weird that “Obama Talks About Net Neutrality and Intellectual Property” is probably the most irresistible clickbait headline for me that I can think of, so of course I was hooked.


Speaking of clickbait, more below . . . .

The relevant audience question comes up at about one hour 5 minutes (1:05), from a woman in the audience announcing herself as an entrepreneur and listing her credits (small company, also a professional musician) and asks about “the issues the little guys is facing in terms of their innovation being protected and in terms of bootstrapping their entrepreneurial endeavor. I want to speak to net neutrality and intellectual property rights protection.”



Obama’s answer is, frankly, really good on both. Go listen. He spends about 5 minutes on these subjects. Obama makes it very clear he does not approve of any proposal that permits paid prioritization. While being careful to acknowledge that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency. He also notes that the FCC’s proposal back in May got lots of blowback from net neutrality supporters. Most importantly, Obama said that the White House expects that any rules “are not creating 2, or 3, or 4 tiers of Internet.”


All of that is pretty positive. But even better, because it was more unexpected, was Obama’s well balanced answer on Intellectual Property. Unlike net neutrality, where Obama has a pretty solid track record of supporting rules that prohibit paid prioritization, his statements on intellectual property protection (with the exception of anti-patent troll statements) have tended to be pretty simplistic “more is good, enforcement is good” kinda stuff.


In his statement here, Obama acknowledged that intellectual property protection poses a complicated question of balance. While condemning patent trolls and calling for more rigorous intellectual property enforcement abroad, Obama also noted that companies want their own intellectual property protected but also need to make use of the intellectual property of others. “This is a trickier issue,” Obama acknowledged. “Trying to get the right balance is important. The basic concept is, you want to have sufficient IP, whether patents or copyrights, that you are continually encouraging, and rewarding, innovation and creativity. But you don’t want those structures so tight in terms of protecting that intellectual property that it ends up being an inhibitor to people getting good information, folks coming up with new uses for existing information.”


Which is such a gosh darn sensible high level summary of the problem (without saying whether the law currently comes down on one side of that equation too much or the other side too much) that someone unfamiliar with these debates would almost consider it a non-answer. Except that to even acknowledge that intellectual property policy requires balancing is such a rarity from the U.S. Government in any administration that this statement deserves to be underscored and repeated back at every opportunity.


It’s not a big breakthrough. But given the popular meme that the Administration never listens to the little people and all our advocacy doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. it bears emphasis and repeating when those in power say the right things.


Stay tuned . . .


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