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Who’s zoomin’ who?

March 16, 2011

Now that's a real czar! - flickr, LOC

Enough already with the U.S. government’s habit of naming a “czar” to solve problems. It’s a ridiculous moniker, but that’s beside the point. Instead of rational debate leading to sensible policy, presidents throw a czar at some perceived crisis. Generally, the results are poor (cf.- War on Drugs).

Somehow I had overlooked that the U.S. now has an intellectual property czar (czarina?), Victoria Espinel. I learned that fact today when I read that the Obama administration wishes to make streaming a federal offense. What’s next from this administration? A Minister of Crushing Users’ Rights?

Leaving aside my disgruntlement with the alleged Democrat whom I helped elect, this is just an absurd land grab by rights holders. To some degree, I understand that illegal streaming should be a federal offense, what with interstate commerce and all that, and illegal streaming is illegal after all, so it’s an offense in someone’s court. What strikes me as noxious in this move is that they plan to share information with media firms and assist them with civil suits. That strikes me as going way too far. If someone scams me with good old-fashioned mail fraud, will the government assist me with my civil suit against the scammer?

It’s the actual job title for Ms. Espinel that is most galling: Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. Where’s the balance? When will the government show the same concern for the legal rights of consumers and users? Remember: copyright exists to support the useful arts and sciences, not to enrich media companies nor artists. It balances the needs and rights of the public with those of the creators, so that the latter can earn a living while impinging as little as possible on free trade in information. The endless extensions of copyright are throttling creativity and serve only to enrich the already wealthy. Media companies and IP law firms must be laughing themselves stupid right now at the thought of the windfall about to come their way.

The only upside here is that if Ms. Espinel gets her wish, they’ll have to legalize marijuana to make room in the courts and prisons for an endless stream of litigation and incarceration.

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