Blogging the Symposium: Government Role in IP

The third panel featured a lively debate on the proper role for the government in enforcing intellectual property rights. In particular, discussion focused on the PRO-IP act, a controversial bill which had proposed increased damages for infringement and a new government bureaucracy to ensure the protection of copyright.

Sherwin Siy, above left, discussed the recent markup of the bill, which moved out of subcommittee only after the provision to disaggregate damages was struck.

Many of the questions focused on whether it was proper for the government to spend a significant amount of money to protect a private right. Prof. Post pointed out that the nature and protection of property rights changes with technology, noting that at one point flying an airplane over one's land was considered a trespass. The government, he said, should not be in the business of protecting outdated business models. From the audience, Prof. Parchomovsky, the moderator from the first panel, questioned whether the benefits would outweigh the costs of such a proposal.

Charles Sanders (far left) said that less protection for artists would lead to the decline of professional artists in favor of amateurs, countering a comment by Prof. David Post (far right) that people create even in the absence of an ability to make money. There may be more works of art than ever, Sanders said, but they are not of the same quality as professional products. Also pictured are Sherwin Siy and Sigal Mandelker from the DOJ. Ms. Mandelker opposed the creation of a new government office for copyright, noting that the DOJ has already been prosecuting large-scale infringers.

Prof. Christopher Yoo (far left) moderated debate between Mr. Sanders and Prof. Post. Mr. Sanders told Prof. Post that if they sat down and talked, they would probably agree 98% of the time. Prof. Post said if that was true, he would buy him a beer--by the end of the panel, it became clear that no beer would be forthcoming. They did agree, however, that the music industry needed to adopt a new business model in the face of changing technology.