The Copyright Policy Reality Gap

We hear a lot from the free culture movement and the CopyTheft advocates about where they think Copyright and IP Protection should be headed, but it’s important to note what the actual values are for Copyright protection on Capital Hill. Perhaps there’s no place better to start than with the White House itself…
“”What’s more, we’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property.  Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people.  It is essential to our prosperity and it will only become more so in this century.  But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor. ” – President Barack Obama
“…piracy is theft. Clean and simple. It’s smash and grab. It ain’t no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s and grabbing [merchandise].” – Vice President Joe Biden
Also, let’s be clear (as is noted below) that at this point there is nothing the least bit controversial about acknowledging the degree of the seriousness that online piracy presents to American jobs and the US economy.
“Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.  It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. ” –

Artists and creators live a different lifestyle with many trade offs from conventional employment often working long odd hours for lower than minimum wage and without benefits. For artists and creators this is balanced out in the rights and protections granted in copyright that allow the artist a sustainable living. As a society we have granted these rights to creators as an incentive to produce a meaningful cultural economy. So effective have these protections been that America has the most profitable and most exported popular culture throughout the world.

“Recently, I’ve had a chance to read letters from award winning writers and artists whose livelihoods have been destroyed by music piracy. One letter that stuck out for me was a guy who said the songwriting royalties he had depended on to ‘be a golden parachute to fund his retirement had turned out to be a lead balloon.’ This just isn’t right.” – US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke

Now is the time to have a serious and meaningful conversation about the future of a fair and ethical internet that does not punish the innovative artists and creators who enrich our lives. Technology may change but principles do not. The internet and digital technology have opened up many new opportunities for artists, but it has also opened up new opportunities for those who wish to exploit those artists for personal or corporate gain.

We call upon the administration and both parties to protect the fundamental rights of artists and creators by adopting a fair and ethical set of principles for internet policy.