Has Atlas Shrugged? (Part 1): Does the government’s decision to drop their controversial plan to block websites that infringe on copyright laws mark the end of creativity as we know it?

Controversial plans to block websites that infringe on copyright laws have been dropped by the government after advice from Ofcom . . . the measure has been scrapped on the grounds that it was ‘unworkable’, the government said in its response to the Hargreaves Review, a recent report on intellectual property rules.

from today’s Huffington Post article titled “Government Joins the 21st Century”

As I read the above referenced article in which internet service providers and online rights groups have applauded as moving the government into the 21st century, I could not help but immediately recall Ayn Rand’s last work of non-fiction, Atlas Shrugged.  But perhaps not for the reasons that one might think.

For those who may not be familiar Rand’s epic novel, the premise is fairly complex but straight forward.  America has become a dystopian society (the opposite of Utopia) in which the government controls and therefore stifles individual rights and overall societal freedom.  You can now see why the decision may be viewed by many as a victory over unnecessary and unwanted government intervention through their attempted introduction of draconian legislation.

However, there is another side to this two-edged sword that is the intellectual property infringement question.  Specifically, who does the government’s decision to forfeit the pursuit of protecting copyrights under the Digital Economy Act harm?  I am of course talking about the content providers.

Rather than go into the obvious dissertation about quality content being critical, without which the technological advancements of the Internet would be virtually useless . . . I mean why restate the obvious, I will instead offer today’s post as a first step towards understanding the interconnecting complexities of protecting content creators rights in a world of unbridled, split second accessibility.

More specifically the comment made by Business Secretary Vince Cable who, in making reference to the Motion Picture Association successfully applying for a court injunction that requires BT to turn off access to it’s Newzbin2 website due to copyright violations, indicated that “There are test cases being fought in the courts, so we’re looking at other ways of achieving the same objective, the blocking objective to protect intellectual property in those cases, but in a way that’s legally sound.”

The problem with pursuing a legal remedy through the courts as it relates to copyright protection, is similar to those associated with protecting one’s patent . . . it is for all but the largest of organizations a prohibitively expensive proposition that few, especially during these tough economic times, can easily afford.  Yes, the legal system in terms of corporate law is indeed heavily weighted in favor of those that have the depth of financial means through which they can charge up the hill of enforcing one’s rights in the business arena.

Unfortunately, this is the great paradox that is the Internet in that while it provides one and all with a level playing field by which anyone from anywhere can access a global market through which they can share and sell creative content, doing so does subject or expose said content to uncontrolled poaching.

So what is the answer?

In the next installment in this series, I will closely examine the merits of a recent report on intellectual property rules known as the Hargreaves Review, and how its recommendations achieve the delicate balance between personal freedom and the protection of intellectual property.


Comments are closed.

  • Books Written by Jon Hansen

%d bloggers like this: