IP and Public Choice
Nothing makes me despair more about the corruption of our legislative process than the dynamic surrounding intellectual property laws. SOPA and PIPA provide yet more evidence, as it if were needed. This article by former lobbyist TC Sottek illustrates the point nicely (HT Balloon Juice):
Lawmakers may have their own parochial interests or lofty causes, but first and foremost they’re always looking for votes. To get votes, they need attention and money — something that corporate lobbyists can dish out in abundance. The end product of this system is lawmaking that’s less about making good public policy and more about appeasing the hands that feed — as a result, powerful corporations with deep pockets gain unparalleled access to members of Congress, and they help set the agenda. That agenda is why bills like SOPA and PIPA gain such traction — they were delivered to Congress in return for money and votes.
I know it’s considered naive by many in my line of work to hope for anything more than this, but democracy does not have to work this way. For a variety of reasons, however, ours currently does. And, in the IP context, the result has been a steady diet of ever more expansive IP rights without regard to the costs and increasingly draconian and, in my opinion, counterproductive efforts to prevent online copyright infringement. And, although the legislative process is plainly broken in this area, for a number of reasons (some of them sound), the courts continue to refuse to intervene.