Sunday, January 22, 2012

SOPA, Internet regulation, and the economics of piracy

When Wikipedia went dark earlier this week, it grabbed the attention of many people who don't spend much time worrying about piracy or copyright issues. But in conversations about the problems with SOPA, I noticed outright skepticism from some folks about the worries raised by opponents of the legislation.

Fortunately, the opposition appears to have forced legislators to shelve their bills. But the claim that Internet piracy is threatening the economy continues to have legs - despite a lack of credible evidence to support it.

This article, by Julian Barnes, from, looks at some of the claims made by those supporting the bill and challenges many of their assumptions, such as the financial harm copyright holders are suffering.
. . . I remain a bit amazed that it's become an indisputable premise in Washington that there's an enormous piracy problem, that it's having a devastating impact on US content industries, and that some kind of aggressive new legislation is needed tout suite to stanch the bleeding. Despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office recently concluded that it is "difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole," our legislative class has somehow determined that—among all the dire challenges now facing the United States—this is an urgent priority. Obviously, there's quite a lot of copyrighted material circulating on the Internet without authorization, and other things equal, one would like to see less of it. But does the best available evidence show that this is inflicting such catastrophic economic harm—that it is depressing so much output, and destroying so many jobs—that Congress has no option but to Do Something immediately? Bearing the GAO's warning in mind, the data we do have doesn't remotely seem to justify the DEFCON One rhetoric that now appears to be obligatory on the Hill.

SOPA, Internet regulation, and the economics of piracy

(Via Boing Boing.)

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