WASHINGTON, D.C. (Accredited Times) – One of the most disturbing trends in recent years is the nascent but growing movement to reform patent and copyright laws. Some anti-establishment cranks have even argued that “patents and copyrights should be repealed” altogether.
In recent years, various members of the alt-right have advocated for dismantling the current intellectual property system. Stephen Kinsella, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist”, wrote an entire tome against intellectual property, unoriginally called Against Intellectual Property. Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine similarly wrote an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, entitled The Case Against Patents. The article shockingly argues that the patent system primarily encourages “large but stagnant incumbent firms to block innovation and inhibit competition”, advocating for the complete abolition of the patent system. Two other cranks, Andrew W. Torrance and Bill Tomlinson, likewise wrote an article for the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, arguing that patents do not drive innovation. One report has even claimed that online music and movie piracy is actually good for the music industry.
These preposterous articles ignore the innovations driven by patent and copyright laws. Thanks to patent laws, our pharmaceutical companies and accredited universities spend the vast majority of their medical research funds investigating patentable drugs instead of vitamins, minerals, and other quackery. Although these patentable drugs are generally highly toxic, they also have important benefits, such as helping to reduce the surplus population. Last year, the U.S. government invested nearly $32.3 billion in medical research through the National Institutes of Health, almost all of it focused on patentable drugs. Private companies spent over $60 billion more on medical research into patentable products. In contrast, total amounts spent on understanding how the human body actually works accounted for less than 1% of total research expenditures.
Without patent protections, pharmaceutical companies could never recoup the average $2.87 billion it costs to develop a drug and win regulatory approval given the strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other consumer protection organizations. Just to put that in comparison, the entire annual market for Vitamin C, a non-patentable vitamin promoted by quacks, is only about $820 million.
Our copyright laws also promote innovation. Thanks to copyright laws, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have aggressively targeted websites to protect songs and movies from wider dissemination. In 2016 alone, European officials shut down 845 illegal websites at the behest of the MPAA. These websites caused economic damages worth an estimated €686 million just last year.
Without robust copyright laws, movie-making and songwriting would undoubtedly cease, and important commercial enterprises, like YouTube (owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc.), would have no content for its viewers. More critically, the quality of movies and songs would decline considerably. Instead of having popular, commercial-oriented songs and movies, we would only get low-budget unaccredited trash. There is no way that musicians or movie companies could make money without the robust copyright protections that we have today. Popular musicians and movie companies simply lack marketing power and therefore could not possibly leverage their fan bases to earn money without robust copyright laws.
Fortunately, Silicon Valley has stepped up to ward off any real reform with a “reform” organization of their own, mainly committed to maintaining current laws. Just weeks ago, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Adobe, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Oracle, and Salesforce — which collectively hold over 115,000 patents — formed a group called the High Tech Inventors Alliance (HTIA). Their stated goal is to stop nuisance lawsuits brought by “patent trolls” while keeping in place robust patent protections. The Accredited Times agrees with the HTIA and encourages Congress to write a law allowing only major accredited companies to sue for patent infringement. Just as accreditation is important in media, accreditation should be important in patent and copyright laws: no accreditation, no legal rights.
Only by protecting major companies and promoting vigorous IP rights for them alone can we have a system that protects our important accredited industries and promotes innovation.