Importance of Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights Highlight Recent Debate

David Williams

September 12, 2014

At a recent debate on Capitol Hill sponsored by America’s Future Foundation, an interesting question was put to two right-of-center thinkers: Is Copyright a Property Right? The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) had a front row seat for the event and there were some interesting observations that definitely merit highlighting to our readers.  TPA supports strong IP protections so we were keenly interested in the debate.

There are several things that stood out during this back and forth discussion and debate on how to properly define copyright when looking at the issue of intellectual property and what the true meaning is for both concepts.  The two sides immediately agreed that copyright and intellectual property are property rights.

IP has a role to play in today’s global economy. Intellectual Property is a key driving force behind innovation and global commerce. As technologies continue to evolve and countries continue to advance economically, there should be greater focus on preserving the best standards for IP not just here in the United States, but all around the world. A 2012 report from U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) entitled IP Creates Jobs for America highlighted specific metrics showing the importance of IP to economic growth:

IP-intensive companies added more than $2.8 trillion direct output, accounting for more than 23 % of total output in the private sector in 2008-09. In addition to direct output, IP-intensive companies create more than $3 trillion indirect output along the supply chain. Altogether, IP-intensive companies created more than $5.8 trillion direct and indirect output, accounting for 48.4 % of total private sector output in the United States.

After agreeing to that, there were some important disagreements.  What stood out the most in this debate and is the claim by one side that copyright is not only not a property right, but some form of corporate welfare or crony capitalism that is benefiting only a small number of stakeholders. Corporate welfare and crony capitalism have no business being in the same discussion of copyright and the intellectual property debate. The Export-Import Bank is just one example that perfectly embodies the notion of corporate welfare and crony capitalism, with winners and losers being chosen by the government at the expense and risk of taxpayer money.

There is always great value in serious debate and TPA encourages such exchanges of intellectual thought. That being said, when assertions are made that simply don’t belong in a fair-minded discussion that’s when those very assertions must be corrected. It’s very important that these debates continue to engage the minds representing all sides of an issue, but it’s equally important to highlight things that don’t necessarily represent the ideas being debated in the first place.

We have taken the first step of recognizing the importance of copyright and intellectual property rights protections, it is now time to move forward and make those protections a reality.