Politics makes strange bedfellows, as today's Heritage Foundation panel on MGM v. Grokster again illustrated.
Collected in one room were conservative heavyweights like columnist Jim Pinkerton, former Solicitor General Ted Olson and former Attorney General Ed Meese, alongside Hollywood representatives David Green of the Motion Picture Association of America, Paul Skrabut of ASCAP, Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild, and Jim Ramo of MovieLink (a licensed alternative to Grokster), brought together in a coalition to defend intellectual property rights as well as real property rights. They even had RNC chief Ken Mehlman at the lunch, presenting an award to Congressman Lamar Smith. So Hollywood and the Right appear to be on the same side for a change.
On the other side, actually sitting in the audience, were representatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, some big high-tech players, and their lawyers. Apparently there is big money from telephone companies, cable companies, and ISPs who don't want to be held liable for illegal uses of their services.
And in the middle? Well, a very intelligent-sounding lobbyist from Microsoft sat a couple of seats from me in the audience, he was noncommittal when I asked him what side the giant was taking...
In any case, it looks like March 29th will be a big day at the Supreme Court--peer-to-peer downloading of music and movies is going on trial (the Napster case ended before it reached the Supreme Court). Question at issue: Will the US government ban a technology that is used to commit theft of intellectual property, or not?
As a blogger and non-participant in this case, a believer in copyright as well as fair use, my guess is the answer lies somewhere between the positions of the two parties . Surely, there must be a way to make peer-to-peer distribution pay in such a way that royalties can be collected for the creators, while permitting new technologies to be developed and used. Will the Supreme Court come up with such a solution?
The best presentation was by songwriter Rick Carnes, (I asked him for a copy to post on this blog). He pointed out that the notion of "intellectual property" is unpopular in law schools these days, Duke just got a $2 million dollar grant to fight against it, and some 400 Yale students rallied in opposition. They see it as a plot by big corporations... Carnes suggested that one problem might be that the word "intellectual" is off-putting.
My suggestion, how about calling it "Creative Property?"
And for all those "Creative Commons" people out there: other than pasture for sheep and some vegetable gardens, which great inventions or works of art, exactly, came out of the commons, prior to their enclosure?