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The One-Two Punch Against American Agriculture

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | August 22, 2014

It’s almost as if it is official U.S. policy to make it difficult for American businesses to succeed.

First and most significantly, we subject American businesses to the highest tax rates among all of our competitors—39.1% when you add in state taxes. That’s significantly higher than the O.E.C.D average of 25 percent, and it’s even higher than the supposedly “high tax European countries”—consider that Belgium (34 percent), France (34.4 percent), and Sweden (22 percent) all have lower business taxes than does the United States.

Then, at least for select industries, we aid their overseas competitors. Through the Export-Import Bank we finance foreign purchases of Boeing jets, which helps foreign competitors of Delta, Southwest, American, FedEx and UPS. We could solve that problem this year by simply allowing Ex-Im to expire.

We allow other of our domestic industries to be exposed to blatant market manipulation and outright attack by our trading partners, particularly in agriculture. Yes, American agriculture policy is a rats nest of loans, supports and protections that are hard to justify in a free-market economy, and conservatives recognize these as market distorting. Of course we should move toward phasing out these protections. Read More >>

Creativity is More than Pushing Buttons

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | August 7, 2014

The hot story in copyright this week is about Wikimedia (Wikipedia) refusing repeated takedown requests by a photographer because Wikimedia claims that no one owns the copyright to the image. And why does no one own this image? Because a monkey pushed the button on the camera.

You can read the story here—I have no interest in simply retelling the story.

What’s at issue in the story is that, because the monkey pushed the button on the camera, Wikimedia claims that the monkey should own the copyright. But since animals can’t own copyrights, Wikimedia concludes that no one can own the copyright, so the picture must immediately go into the public domain.

In an interview, Wikimedia Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Katherine Maher said the organization is confident that the legal basis for denying Slater’s request is sound, because the person that takes the photo should own the copyright. But a person didn’t take this one. Read More >>

The Left Bashes, then Copies, Center-Right Institutions

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | August 5, 2014

There’s a bit of a brouhaha the last couple of days about the discovery of a closed Google group that Left-leaning journalists and activists use to coordinate their messaging.

Which really is of no interest to me whatsoever. I assume many such sorts of coordination and communication among political activists and journalists, which is why I wasn’t at all overwrought a few years ago over the JournoList saga.

But buried in the story is something that I DO find interesting. The progressive Left has this funny habit of denouncing and bashing the institutions of the center-right while at the same time, copying them. Read More >>

So Do We Need Pharmaceutical Innovation, or Not?

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | August 4, 2014

Today in the Wall Street Journal, there is good op/ed about the threat of Ebola and other infectious diseases that urges us to invest more money in medical innovation.

There's also another op/ed complaining that cutting edge, innovative medical cures are too expensive, and that we need something apparently just short of price controls to do something about it.

So which is it? Do we want pharmaceutical and biotech companies taking risks and innovating new cures, such as Sovaldi, the new cure for hepatitis? Or not?

Ms. Ignagni's piece is particularly egregious. It's part of a campaign that she's behind to get the federal government to forceably lower the price of Sovaldi, a blockbuster new miracle cure for hepatitis C. Note the word "cure."

First, she writes as if concern over high drug prices is a recent phenomenon, which of course it isn't. I've been hearing statists complaining about high drug prices for the 20 years I've been doing public policy. In fact, the first paper I ever edited and published at IPI was on this very topic. The redistributionists have never understood why they can't have all their diseases cured and their pain alleviated without it costing anyone anything. They're always focused on the second order concern--how goods are distributed--without fully appreciating the first order concern--how goods come to be in the first place.

Distributing existing goods is easy--innovating a new product or service that never existed before, now that's impressive. But apparently not to Ms. Ignagni. Read More >>

Piracy and the Small Indie Filmmaker

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | August 4, 2014

Those who dismiss concerns about copyright piracy always deflect the conversation to the big Hollywood studios, as if piracy only affects extremely wealthy people driving around in Bentleys. It's not surprising that defenders of piracy tend to be class warriors in other areas of politics as well.

But the greatest impact of piracy is on those downstream small businesses and employees who work in the industry. Losses due to piracy, at the margin, affect the number of people hired, how much they are paid, and how many projects are undertaken in the first place.

But then there's the indie filmmaker, for whom the entire project is being done on a shoestring. When everything is being done with marginal resources, marginal impacts have a major impact. The same protections that would protect the major Hollywood studios against rampant piracy would be even more beneficial to the little guys.

There's a very interesting article up on about filmmaker Zak Forsman and the experience he's having with piracy of his new indie film, Down and Dangerous. Read More >>

Distinctive packaging: Private property and a protection for consumers

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | July 31, 2014

Shocking Reports Show Great Dangers of Counterfeit Goods

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | July 21, 2014

A particularly shocking report comes today from the UK, in which counterfeit wine and liquor are flooding the market, containing dangerous chemicals such as methanol, chloroform, bleach, nail polish remover and anti-freeze. According to the report, up to 2 dozen bottles of vodka were being produced every minute at one counterfeiting site. 

And it’s not just occurring in the UK.  

In the United States, federal agencies have stepped up to identify, intercept, and prosecute criminal activity attempting to import or manufacture fakes in the U.S. to protect innovators and consumers from the dangerous impact of counterfeits.  Read More >>

Giovanetti responds to negative spin on Aereo decision

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | July 11, 2014

This week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the Washington Post the Supreme Court decision on Aereo will discourage innovation.

But in a recent podcast, IPI president Tom Giovanetti debunks what he calls negative spin regarding the ruling, and says it’s a win for all players in the market because it’s a win for the rule of law. (Click here to listen to the IPI podcast.) Read More >>

Could This Man Be The Next USPTO Director?

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | July 3, 2014

Reports indicate President Obama is poised to tap Phil Johnson as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Currently Senior Vice-President for Intellectual Property Policy & Strategy at Johnson & Johnson, Phil Johnson joined IPI in 2011 at our annual World Intellectual Property Day Forum and spoke on a panel called “Hot Topics in IP.” Click here to watch video of that panel. Read More >>

Export-Import Bank loaning money to drug cartels

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | June 17, 2014

In an op/ed published Wednesday in the Dallas Morning News I argue that Republicans should let the Export-Import Bank expire instead of reauthorizing it.

In the piece, I mention a charge that the Export-Import Bank may have loaned money to Mexican drug cartels.

Of course, you can't put hyperlinks or footnotes in op/eds. So here's the source of that little factoid from 2007, compliments of the Wayback Machine.

DALLAS - A News 8 investigation has found that a little known government agency may have unwittingly wasted taxpayers money on top of using the funds to support criminal activity.

The probe originally revealed that small business loans sponsored by the Export-Import Bank of the United States were made to non-existing companies for equipment that wasn't even real.

Now, New 8 has discovered that some of the people who got the Ex-Im Bank loans may have drug connections. The $243 million worth of bad loans were originally made to help trade with Mexico.

The loans have been linked to the Juarez drug cartel, which is known for its brutal murders. The cartel killed one dozen people and buried them in a suburban backyard across the border fro El Paso.

Another loan was linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel, whose business is smuggling heroin into the United States.

The federally funded Ex-Im Bank apparently backed loans to people affiliated with both cartels and the Mexican drug trade.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, News 8 asked for all documentation related to defaulted small business loans made to Mexico from 2002 to 2005. Although there were nearly 200 bad loans, so far, information on only 34 cases has been turned over.

But the bank did give a list of the defaulted loans and the names and addresses of the people who got them in Mexico.

"They have drug connections, which is very disheartening to think that the U.S. government is lending money to documented traffickers in the drug trade that are tied into the cartels in Mexico," said Phil Jordan, the former head of the El Paso Intelligence Center for the DEA and Border Patrol in El Paso.

Jordan ran background checks of the borrowers with two federal sources and found borrowers from Juarez and Sinaloa with criminal ties to money laundering, organized crime or drugs in Mexico. Jordan said he was surprised to find that the Ex-Im Bank didn't do similar checks before guaranteeing the loans. Read More >>

Ireland Plain Packaging Regulation Misguided, Harmful

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | June 12, 2014

June 5 is World Anti-Counterfeiting Day

Posted by Erin Humiston | Comments | June 5, 2014

Be judicious when you buy. That "steal of a deal" may cost you a lot more than you think. Read More >>

What Has Been Learned from the New Copyright Alert System (CAS)?

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | May 28, 2014

For some time IPI has been at the forefront of arguing in favor of intellectual property protection, since we believe that property rights are the basis of any market-based system, and markets are the best way to allocate goods and services. And particularly in an innovation-based economy, ensuring that innovators and creators are able to reap the rewards of their successful products is the best way to continue to fund a virtuous cycle of innovation.

Most commonly IP is protected through the force of law, since it is a proper role of government to facilitate the protection of private property. But, practically as well as legally, everyone who wants their world to be a world rich in creativity and innovation has an interest in seeing that creators and innovators are rewarded, in order to encourage continued creativity and innovation as envisioned by the American Founders in the Constitution’s Copyright Clause.

Massive on-line piracy, of course, derails the virtuous circle by depriving creators of any hope of reward. But the development of new business models through which content can be legally obtained on-line means that today those who might have taken the easy piracy route can be educated and redirected toward an abundance of legal options.

This is what brought Internet providers to the table with content companies some time ago to devise a voluntary system to try to reduce online piracy. Whereas before ISPs had been sometimes accused of having interests opposed to those of the content companies, in the maturing Internet ecosystem it has become clear that all legitimate players in the Internet have an interest in making sure that the Internet is a place rich in creative content, and a place where those who contribute to this richness at least have the option of attempting to monetize their content through various business models. Read More >>

Amendment Would Prevent Administration from Relinquishing Control of the Internet

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | May 27, 2014

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) will offer an amendment tomorrow to the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill that would prohibit any funds from being used to relinquish control of the remaining root functions of the Internet to a multistakeholder organization, as is currently planned.

IPI has previously expressed our deep concerns that, while it is true that transferring those functions to the multistakeholder organization imagined by the administration would not mean those functions were subject to political control or United Nations control, it is probably inevitable that such an organization would eventually succumb to pressure. I've mentioned examples such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Meterological Organization (WMO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as similar multistakeholder organizations designed to support a purely technical mission but that became UN organizations and thus subject to the domination of the UN bureaucracy, UN organizational rules, etc.

There is no compelling reason why any of those organizations needed to be within the UN system, but they ended up there. They had specialized, technical functions but now are subject to political mischief because they are part of the UN system. There's every reason to think the same thing will eventually happen to the Internet functions if the U.S. surrenders them, especially since the UN already claims the right to be involved in Internet issues through both the ITU and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

IPI was on a panel a few weeks ago discussing this topic, and the CSPAN video is archived here. And if you don't want to watch the video, I blogged on my participation at that event here.

So, while what is currently planned and underway is not transferring control of the Internet to the UN, there is every reason to believe that will be the eventual result. And there is every reason to be very, very concerned about that result.

Congress is right to assert itself in this regard, and to prevent the administration from acting unilaterally to take what is almost certainly a bad step for the Internet. Read More >>

Wait--I Thought "Permissionless Innovation" Was a Thing?

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments | May 19, 2014

There has been a lot of rhetoric around the phrase "permissionless innovation" in the last couple of years. I'm not myself comfortable with the phrase, because I think a hallmark of civilization is respect for the property of others, and thus the West has developed an entire permission-based legal culture around property rights.

But others ARE enamored of the idea of permissionless innovation, especially the Internet and tech community.

That's why I am struck in reading through FCC Chairman Wheeler's new 100 page net neutrality NPRM document. Apparently, one of the many things net neutrality means is permissionless innovation for edge companies but NOT for network providers.

Because network providers are going to need permission for a whole lot of things they do. Any new thing they want to try with regard to their business model is going to be subject to some absurd and undefined "commercially reasonable" standard.

How do we determine whether a practice is "commercially reasonable?" Apparently permission will be required of the FCC.

So I will take great joy in the next few months in pointing out they hypocrisy of net neutrality proponents who think permissionless innovation is a virtue—just apparently not for broadband companies.

'Cause it's not as if we want rapid innovation in broadband networks. No, of course not. That would be silly.



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