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August 11, 2004
No Crystal Ball for outcomes of proposed copyright changes
CNET has this story about the Congressional Budget Office's report on copyright legislation regulating new digital technologies. As described, the report seems pretty wishy-washy. DRM could impose costs on consumers, continued "piracy" might reduce incentives for artists, and compulsory license schemes might cut transaction costs but also could reduce supply or demand. It sounds like there's something for everyone in there, but is this kind of report really useful to Congresspersons trying to decide what do to, or merely to give them something to quote to support a position they've already chosen?
Postscript: Having now read the report itself in addition to just the CNET description, I'm sorry I used the term wishy-washy. Possibly, as an advocate, I am so used to taking a position I expect every piece of writing to do so. The report is really quite a good overview of the copyright debate, which points out the complexity that many persuasive writings on the subject try to avoid. This certainly shows hill types that there's a lot more to copyright issues than can be captured in 2 page letters ranting about piracy. That said, the report is, intentionally, limited to economic perspectives. There's no discussion of the effects, for example, of labelling millions of children criminals, and very little about upsetting consumers' reasonable expectations about what they can do with media they possess.
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