Monday, January 12, 2009

EFF's von Lohmann to 'special advisor on copyright': 'Less IP enforcement, please'

When Congress passed the PRO-IP Act last year, its intent was clear: the federal government should do more to combat infringement of copyright and other forms of intellectual property. As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), one of the Act's chief sponsors, said upon President Bush's signing of the bill into law:
This law will ensure that resources are available to enforce intellectual property laws and coordinate the government’s intellectual property policies. Americans suffer when their intellectual property is stolen. I am pleased the President has signed this important measure into law to protect American jobs, American innovation, and American investments.
One of the PRO-IP Act's provisions was the creation of an "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" in the White House -- better known as the "IP Czar." Today, Fred von Lohmann, a top copyleft litigator as Senior Staff Attorney for EFF, participated on a panel on which he was asked, "You’ve been named special advisor on copyright to the U.S., E.U., or Canada. What are your top three recommendations?" Answered von Lohmann (as liveblogged by Gavin Baker):
Think less about enforcement and more about solutions. Infringement drives much innovation in the copyright market — e.g., Napster spurred iTunes. Pushing or even transgressing the boundaries encourages copyright industries to step up their game. Part of the goal of copyright law should be ensuring there’s room for disruptive innovation. 1906: Music industry asked for copyright owner control over music machines (player pianos), said they’d kill the industry — and they were right — but we got something better in return. We’ve done great things — the p2p “library” is huge — so let’s find ways to get rightsholders compensated without dismantling that. More enforcement won’t help that — more solutions would.
In fairness, it does not appear that von Lohmann was responding to a question that specifically referenced the new US IP Czar position. But his answer is still revealing; quite clearly he thinks that whoever is the "special advisor on copyright" (sounds like an "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" to me!) should advocate for less enforcement. Fortunately, it looks likely that von Lohmann and his allies will be disappointed.

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