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American Industry In Danger of Creating an Intellectual Property Double Standard

An interesting dichotomy is developing inside large American corporations. Some companies, including the content producers within the Entertainment industry, are hellbent on rolling back the rights that consumers have to enjoy television, movies, and music wherever and whenever they want. Meanwhile, software companies seem to be reducing their anti-piracy efforts, but only in developing countries where there was no understanding of intellectual property law in the first place.

In a piece on CNET News.com, Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, says that the content community has gone on a scorched earth campaign to destroy each successive new recording and distribution technology because the technologies may undermine established means of entertainment distribution. But, rather than working with the software and hardware industries to make marginal changes to digital technology that would reduce the most egregious abuses, the entertainment industry is trying to convince lawmakers that some aspects of Fair Use ought to be criminal offenses.

Meanwhile, Sam Williams writes in Salon that companies such as Microsoft have taken a lassiez faire approach to piracy in countries like China because it expects to profit more from the network effects of having millions of undocumented users of its software than it otherwise would if Linux got a big foothold in the market. Nevertheless, prices for the same software are increasing for customers in America and Western Europe.

It's impossible to reconcile these two approaches, and it's hard to imagine how Congress could aid companies pursuing both approaches simultaneously. Neither one of the strategies seems fair to Americans who are attempting to play by the current intellectual property rules.

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