July 31, 2004  ·  Tim Wu

A question that should be asked: Would a Kerry Adminstration veto the Induce Act?

According to johnkerry.com,

“the possibilities for progress … are limitless… but they won’t be realized under a government that stifles the creativity and entrepreneurship that will produce the next big idea; that lets politics and ideology trump progress and science.”

Exactly. This should be clear: Using copyright law to set innovation policy is not much different than letting the coal industry set environmental policy.

  • http://aphid.org aph

    sadly it seems that Kerry is a “IP hawk”, at least when it comes to China..

    “We have to be tough on some things. China understands that. It’s a way of life out there to get away with what you can until you are called on it. The violations of intellectual property are disgraceful and unacceptable. We need to be tough on currency manipulation.” (December 03)

  • J.B. Nicholson-Owens

    Under Clinton/Gore, the US gained some of the most undesirable copyright and media policy: the DMCA, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. What has changed amongst the Democrats and Republicans that would cause a Kerry Adminstration to not veto the INDUCE Act?

    About a month ago C-SPAN aired what will probably be Jack Valenti’s last appearance as president of the MPAA before a Congressional committee. Representatives from the MPAA, RIAA, and a large corporate book publisher association spoke to a group of Democrats and Republicans. There was overwhelming agreement between the panelists and the committee members: Everyone there likes thinking of copyrighted works as property and the Congress should do what they can to “protect” that property. Given the amount of money that the corporate representatives control, the willingness of Congress to take that money, and repeatedly calling illicit copying “theft” and “stealing” instead of copyright infringement, I don’t think it is likely that the INDUCE Act will be shot down.

    Getting back to Kerry: he can sign the INDUCE Act with impunity because people won’t react adversely where it counts–his re-election. Kerry has been able to get support thus far because the Democrats did such a good job of letting the Republicans do horrible things at home and abroad. Kerry and Edwards disagree with Democratic Party delegates on a number of issues (including support for the war in Iraq, homosexual marriage, and single-payer universal health care) yet the Kerry/Edwards ticket received all but 37 votes for nomination. I think this tells the Kerry/Edwards campaign that they can continue to run without a mandate (perhaps even win) despite how their voters feel on the issues. How many progressive organizations will give Kerry/Edwards their endorsement without demanding anything of them? I’m guessing that a lot will, just like in 2000 when Gore/Lieberman got a lot of free endorsements.

  • http://www.fallinggrace.com Neil Wehneman

    Can you show the article or interview where that quote came from? I’d like to know the broader context of it, if possible.

    In regards to China and large-scale COMMERCIAL copying, yes I believe that those infringements are “disgraceful and unacceptable.” Being against that type of behavior does not automatically and necessarily mean you are against legitimate non-commercial use or reforming aspects of the system.

    – Neil Wehneman

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    I tried to access http://www.johnkerry.com/issues/tech/
    that I mentioned in my older comment on July 7th but it
    is not there anymore. So, I turned to Google to get the
    cached copy and here is the quotation from that web
    page that no longer exists:

    [Start of quotation]
    Copyright-Based Industries Are Critical to
    Economic Growth: Products of the mind from
    America’s scientists, engineers, computer
    programmers have little value without
    intellectual property protections. Copyright
    based industries alone now account for
    nearly 6% of all jobs in America and 7.75 %
    of GDP. These industries are in jeopardy
    because of the Bush Administration’s failure
    to enforce international treaties to protect
    America’s creative community from piracy.

    Stop Intellectual Piracy: The Office of the
    U.S. Trade Representative estimates that
    losses theft of U.S. intellectual property in
    51 foreign countries total $9.7 billion. In
    China alone we lose $1.8 billion to piracy. Yet
    even where we have strong agreements,
    piracy remains a major problem due to a
    failure to fully implement the TRIPS
    agreement and an unwillingness or inability
    to crack down on the problem. A Kerry
    Administration will take theft of the jobs of
    America’s creative workforce a trade and
    foreign policy priority.
    [End of quotation]

    So, the answer to your question is obviously no.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
    in this comment in the public domain.

    (Note that the public domain notice does not apply to the
    quotation.)

  • Cranky Observer

    Answer: no.

    And that is something that people in the Free n movements need to be thinking about. There is no choice but to support Kerry in this cycle if the country is to survive. But – once he is in office – what will he do and how will we influence it?

    Cranky

  • Tracy Eckels

    Personally I’m less concerned about the copyright of material property and more concerned about the copyright of intellectual jobs that have been pirated offshore. How can we expect to protect the property on a CD when they are mass produced overseas. How can we expect our country to continue to be innovative in science and technology when not only does our government deny the truth that science produces, but actively hides it so corporate America can profit.
    Copyright protection will only work for those who have the money to buy it. Can we really expect it to protect the intellectual property rights of an individual?

  • J.B. Nicholson-Owens

    Cranky: I disagree about the American public having “no choice but to support Kerry in this cycle if the country is to survive” because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a circular argument. Any candidate that gets enough voters can become viable. It’s a matter of getting out information on other parties and alternatives so people aren’t trapped in a duopoly where the Democrats have no incentive to stop chasing corporate money. Every campaign is more important than the last because the two major corporate parties keep signing on to horrible policy. You can be sure that in 4 years the poor will be more adversely affected than they are now; there are plenty of untried (in the US) but good ideas that could help and few in Congress who dare to support them for fear of losing their job. This means if we wait for an election year for it to become somehow ‘safe’ to vote for someone other than the Democrat, it will never become safe to do so. You can always talk yourself into accepting the lesser of two evils when you lower your standards to accept whatever that party is offering you.

    So, until you’ve seen this in action by watching a few election cycles go by where the Democrats oblige their corporate masters, I have some practical advice. I recommend working in smaller local issues to see this cycle in action right in front of your eyes. Try, as I have:

    • working on a Congressional campaign for your district and watching the majority of the campaign’s money go into media buys. If you live in one of the few districts that aren’t “safe seats” (the intended result of massive gerrymandering by both major parties), you’ll find it easy to locate a campaign to work on. Otherwise, try picking the challenger’s campaign. You might think this to be a non-issue; the airwaves in the US are ostensibly owned by the public. But no broadcaster is compelled to provide free TV or radio airtime for ballot-qualified candidates. The fairness doctrine (which might get your candidate equal time if an opposing candidate got on) went away under Reagan and most people don’t know this.
    • working to get debates hosted on community access TV and radio (assuming there is such a thing in your area), then try to get people to listen to those debates. Local candidates get virtually no coverage by national media or the local affiliates. Local media are often not locally owned and the owner will use the lack of voters in “off-year” elections as an excuse. Note the vicious circle here.
    • getting a review board for election equipment so your county isn’t saddled with voter-unverifiable non-paper ballots. I’m on such a board for my county; the board is only a recommendation board (the county board makes the final decision and signs the contracts) but I have had a great time learning about the various vendors, software, voting machines, and all the details that go into making sure everyone’s vote is voter-verified, counted, and recorded on paper for recounts. Part of my tenure on the recommendation board was to visit Tippecanoe county, Indiana, one of many counties where the infamous Diebold touchscreen devices are used. The pollsters who demonstrated those machines to us didn’t appear to understand that the receipt-like paper the machine generates at the end of the voting day is utterly useless–a genuine waste of paper–because none of the log activity it prints were verified by voters. What, exactly, it is printing is completely unknown and only useful to corroborate the possibly inaccurate vote count that machine produced. People don’t understand that votes will also be silently lost through malevolent programming where everything appears to function correctly. You’ll need to act fast on getting involved in a voting equipment board–federal law (the “Help Americans Vote Act”) requires that HAVA-compliant equipment be in use by the first federal election after 2006 at the latest.

    My point is that you’ll be surprised on how the extant system railroads into crappy choices and how much effect you can have when you work on issues on a scale where you feel like you can make a difference.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I suspect that the hard lobbying work is in Congress. By the time such a bill is passed and on the President’s desk, there’s very little chance of us having an effect on it. It’s the wrong end of the lens on which to concentrate effort.

  • http://www.elegantdesign.co.nz Website Design

    We are from New Zealand, and from this side of the world Kerry is great! I hope you all give him the vote :)

  • Anonymous

    The only comment on copyright law I’ve seen from Kerry has been this Hollywood Reporter article. It certainly doesn’t deal with INDUCE directly, but it gives me little hope that Kerry will be even remotely vigilant towards a balanced copyright.

    Although one would expect Kerry to take a harder stance on unauthorized uses of copyright material an interview with an industry association magazine, his comments still don’t bode well for anyone who wants balanced instead of simply maximal copyright. He is somewhat equivocal in that he acknowledges legitimcay of “the normal college-dorm, room-to-room, person-to-person, friend-to-friend kind of sharing,” he later says that “you’ve got different parties that are resisting doing things that could conceivably make it difficult for people to share or destroy or limit by virtue of technology the capacity for a CD to be recopied any number of times and so forth. There are economic interests out there that lobby against a reasonable compromise to protect the property.

    I’ve read your books, Mr. Lessig, so I know you are willing to assert that copyright is a property right, albiet a very special one. I however think any sort of property right and phrasing can never be really free from the connotations of physical property. There is a full vocabulary that people automatically use and think in when they talk about property–theft, (exclusive) owndership, and so on–that is inimical to balance in copyright.

    That Kerry argues for ‘protecting property’ is telling about his general stance towards copyright, even if we can’t extrapolate an INDUCE Act opinion. True, Kerry argues generally for ‘balance’ and ‘compromise,’ but the Jessica Litman has shown that such maneuvers during the last hundred years have consistently ended up increasing copyright holder rights at the expense of consumer/social rights because only industry insiders are ever consulted. That Kerry seems to decry the new groups that have sprung up to protect consumer rights as those arguing against “a reasonable compromise.”

  • Henry

    I hit post instead of preview by mistake. Please delete the incomplete version posted a moment ago. Sorry!

    The only comment on copyright law I�ve seen from Kerry has been this Hollywood Reporter article. It certainly doesn�t deal with INDUCE directly, but it gives me little hope that Kerry will be even remotely vigilant towards a balanced copyright.

    Although one would expect Kerry to take a harder stance on unauthorized uses of copyright material an interview with an industry association magazine, his comments still don�t bode well for anyone who wants balanced instead of simply maximal copyright. He is somewhat equivocal in that he acknowledges legitimcay of �the normal college-dorm, room-to-room, person-to-person, friend-to-friend kind of sharing,� he later says that �you�ve got different parties that are resisting doing things that could conceivably make it difficult for people to share or destroy or limit by virtue of technology the capacity for a CD to be recopied any number of times and so forth. There are economic interests out there that lobby against a reasonable compromise to protect the property.�

    I�ve read your books, Mr. Lessig, so I know you are willing to assert that copyright is a property right, albiet a very special one. I however think any sort of property right and phrasing can never be really free from the connotations of physical property. There is a full vocabulary that people automatically use and think in when they talk about property–theft, (exclusive) owndership, and so on–that is inimical to balance in copyright.

    That Kerry argues for �protecting property� is telling about his general stance towards copyright, even if we can�t extrapolate an INDUCE Act opinion. True, Kerry argues generally for �balance� and �compromise,� but Jessica Litman has shown that such maneuvers during the last hundred years have consistently ended up increasing copyright holder rights at the expense of consumer/social rights because only industry insiders are ever consulted. Kerry appears to decry the groups that question anticopying technology (which goes well beyond the grants of copyright and ‘legislates by technology’ unprecedented changes to unregulated consumer use and regulated fair use) as those arguing against �a reasonable compromise.� This is certainly a telling example of his conception of compromise.

    To me, Kerry has a stance like most other US presidents have had–which is to say, no thought-out stance at all. Whatever congress tells him is a compromise is probably what he will sign. Again, with the INDUCE Act in particular, who knows, but he would likely sign the Act if it was pitched to him as “the compromise that congress worked out.”

  • Cranky Observer

    > Cranky: I disagree about the American public having �no choice
    > but to support Kerry in this cycle if the country is to survive�
    > because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a circular argument.

    Unfortunately, I am speaking literally here. Personally I think Ralph Nader is a fraud, but be that as it may he is NOT going to be elected President in 2004. Kucinich, who had some interesting things to say, was not nominated, nor was Dean.

    But IMHO four more years of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld could lead to the literal destruction of the USofA. A protest or “change the sytstem” vote in 2004 will be suicide – certainly figurative, possibly literal.

    I don’t know how much better Kerry will be, but he CANNOT be worse for the overall health of the country than Bush.

    That’s my analysis, anyway. Given that, my point is: what will the Freedom movements do and how WILL they work to influence a Kerry Administration? Not how will they work to influence a Dean/Kucinich Administration in 2012, but what will they (we) do this reality’s January 2005?

    Cranky

  • http://www.torrentocracy.com Gary Lerhaupt

    By the way, here’s a picture of using P2P to download the Induce Act hearings:

    http://www.torrentocracy.com/images/screenshot-04.jpg

  • Tim Wu
  • http://www.penguinsix.com/ Andrew Leyden

    The biggest problem of copyright overhaul supporters is that they seek to make this a partisian issue. The MPAA and RIAA are not Republican or Democratic groups–they are incumbent support mechanisms that work Washington with a skill that copyright reformers simply cannot match. Not only is there money, but also “celebs” being available for photo ops, etc. They also never get off message, as is the case with many copyright reformers (EFF, Lessig, etc). Jack Valenti isn’t out there for one candidate or another, nor is he speaking about the evils of the war in Iraq or the death of the Kyoto treaty or abortion or whatever. He’s on message on his view of copyright.

    And he is winning.

  • tatere

    Exactly. We need a counterweight organization, that raises money, hands it out, rates Congress, goes after the most egregious offenders, lobbies, goes to hearings – the whole kaboodle. One that is not Democrat or Republican, as such, but for sure is not above the fray.

    Does such a thing exist? I sure can’t find it. Seems odd – it’s not like we don’t have SOME moneybags on our side. There are some high-tech organizations, but honestly, I am not concerned about whether they can write off stock options as expenses.

  • Kevin Riggle

    Eh, how about the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a non-partisan counterweight organization?

    Heck, even given Prof. Lessig’s political leanings, Creative Commons is a non-partisan organization.

  • tatere

    No, not non-partisan – bipartisan. The way corporate money does it – they are definitely involved in politics, they just play both sides of the street. We need a PAC that can make contributions and get access. Maybe a couple of partisan groups would be better, I don’t know – I don’t have any expertise here, I’m just typing. But we need political power as well as good ideas, and far as I can tell, you get that by delivering money and/or votes. Preferably money.

    Look at the co-sponsors. Frist, Hatch, OK, you could argue this fits them ideologically (I don’t think that’s necessarily so but it’s possible). But Daschle? Ah – TV/Movies/Music is his 3rd biggest contributing industry, $385,760. Leahy? Hollywood’s his #2 industry, $221,950. Barbara Boxer (who REALLY should know better) – #4, $520,910. (Data from Open Secrets) And the list is growing. Ernest Miller’s post echoes Andrew Leyden’s here – “Apparently, the copyright industries are doing an excellent bipartisan lobbying job. I’ve yet to hear of a single senator who opposes or even has serious questions about the bill.” Words AND cash.

    I still think there must be some group like this (like an EMILY’s List for copyfight, public domain, etc), even if it’s small. But if there really isn’t one, there needs to be.

  • lib joe

    wow, i didn’t like seeing that cached BS from the Kerry campaign. But I do feel that Kerry will be better than Bush because the democratic party is the party of the people, and the people (like me) will be on his ass like zorro when it comes to these issues. The Bush administration’s base is made up of Jesus freaks. The question for you with regard to IP issues is this: which candidate’s BASE do you trust to come down on the right side of the issues?