|by Flemming Funch|
Lawrence Lessig has for years been a leading voice in the fight against crazy, excessive copyright and intellectual property laws. Now he's announced that he's not exactly retiring, but he's moving on to the root of the issue: corruption.
From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a "no brainer." As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.
Of course he says it diplomatically, that there's a kind of curruption of the system. Yes, most politicians who vote for those laws have been paid by the mega media companies to do just that. But it is the system that is the problem, a system where the interests of big money somehow win most of the time.
Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea -- both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?
The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a "corruption" of the political process. I don't mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean "corruption" in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can't even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.
The point of course is not new. Indeed, the fear of factions is as old as the Republic. There are thousands who are doing amazing work to make clear just how corrupt this system has become. There have been scores of solutions proposed. This is not a field lacking in good work, or in people who can do this work well.