The Register reports that the CBO is advising Congressmen that Digital Rights Management is good for America. Well, for American business anyway.
It is surprising (well, maybe not surprising, perhaps just disappointing) that the CBO completely ignores the central questions at the core of current discussions about copyright and instead lodges their heads firmly in the… pockets of current large media consumers. Nothing in this report does anything to discuss what I think are the core issues behind current copyright discussions:
- First, copyright terms have been extended retroactively for all works. While some works have continuing value, the vast majority are not being exploited in the marketplace. These works were simply kidnapped to provide companies like Disney an additional extension, and the public foots the bills for this governmental largesss.
- Even for works which retained some commercial value, the intention of the Framers was clearly that such works would eventually be put into the public domain. This is part of the balance between trying to encourage creativity and yet keeping our collective culture free.
- Regulations surrounding copyrights have increased dramatically, as have the protections offered to copyrighted material. This makes the potential inclusion of any material which you did not author yourself incredibly perilous: you simply can’t be sure that you have really aquired all the rights to the work you are deriving from. To secure these rights is expensive and fraught with peril, and pushes many creative works out of any realm of possibility.
The CBO report addresses none of these issues. It doesn’t address the possible economic boom that could occur if large numbers of creative works entered the public domain. Given the frequency that studios like Disney derive stories from works in the public domain, there is some reason to believe that the effect could be large. The CBO report does not address (as is admitted by the source listed in the Register article) that their report does not consider the costs of enforcement in their estimates.
What the CBO echos is precisely what the content industry really wants: new market opportunities to sell their works under the umbrella of a government sponsored and continuously extended monopoly. They hypothesize that there exists some markets which are currently not exploitable (perhaps in the form of single use DVDs or CDs) which will provide consumers with new products. The problem is, of course, that nobody wants single use CDs.
Like it or not, if you are a member of the traditional content industry, change is coming, and you better be ready for it. The more you work to outlaw the actions of your consumers, the more quickly you will hasten your own demise. You can continue to expand the already Draconian penalties for “piracy”, you can introduce new technologies which interfere with fair and unregulated uses of your copyrighted works, and you can continue to loot the public domain by paying off Congress to expand copyright terms indefinitely. The result isn’t good for America, and ultimately, it won’t be good for your companies. Ultimately people with a bit more vision than yourselves will start listening to consumers, and will be able to exploit the new market efficiencies that you only shake your heads at.
You can read the CBO’s report Copyright Issues in the Digital Media and decide for yourselves.