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April 11, 2005
Threatening America's Most Cherished Economic Assets
Fordham University's Doron Ben-Atar has a biting piece on Grokster in the April issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Ben-Atar calls the Cartel arguments "disingenuous and shortsighted," noting that it is crying poverty on behalf of itself and mega-star artists while fighting tooth and nail against college students and people who live on a few dollars a day.
His basic argument is similar to the "smashing mercury" meme: you can't stop the practice with lawsuits, no matter how many or how big. All you can do in this case is drive the money and innovation offshore. Ben-Atar notes that regimes with far more coercive powers at their disposal have failed to lock up technical innovations, even when they had physical islands at their disposal.
My favorite quote:
What allows the United States to remain the world's center of innovation is cultural experimentation and the free exchange of ideas. The solicitor general's brief betrays ignorance of the contradictory manner in which our own loose implementation of intellectual-property laws turned the United States from an underdeveloped confederation on the periphery of the Atlantic into the world's leading industrial power. The problems we face today are hardly new, and our conversation will be much enriched by a broader historical perspective.
While I agree with Ben-Atar's basic thesis I think it's worth noting that seas are no barrier to the Cartel's jihad (Sharman/KaZaa suits, etc) and that the US is doing its damnedest to export its intellectual property Stalinism around the world through WIPO and bilateral trade agreements.
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