Fluent arguments against those who maintain that ripping a borrowed CD or pirating a video is a victimless crime.
At the micro level, such acts are not necessarily world-ending. And doesn’t Hollywood make enough money already? Perhaps, but, onetime Ross Perot running mate and long-time Washington insider Choate (The High-Flex Society, 1986) writes, consider that in China, the world’s largest single market, the largest legal film distributor sold 300,000 copies of Titanic, whereas pirates sold something like 25 million of them. Similarly, in Russia three out of four recordings are pirated, in eastern Europe only one of four software packages is legally licensed, and in Italy (and Washington, for that matter), buying fakes is now a fashion statement. The economic implications are enormous, costing Americans jobs and lots of money. (What’s more, think what would happen if airplanes started using pirated or faked parts, Choate suggests just before offering statistics on how many planes in the U.S. have crashed for just that reason.) Choate goes on to present a vigorous and to-the-point summary of the history of copyright and other intellectual property laws in the U.S., which, he argues, have been economic engines in their own right, rewarding innovation and ingenuity while allowing public-domain provisions to assure the general good. In that light, Choate examines current models of protection, designed to serve the interests of wealthy corporations, not individual inventors. He observes, for instance, that present law locks up economically dead material along with material that lives on and on, such as the song “Happy Birthday,” which should have fallen into the public domain in 1991 but was given a term extension to 2009, the better to enrich Time Warner. To liberate this material, as the framers of the Constitution would have wished, Choate proposes a flexible program that would both protect rights owners and “quickly move copyrighted works into the public domain after their commercial life is ended.”
Essential for anyone who creates or works with what the old laws once called “the tangible expression of ideas”—a significant readership, that is, in the Knowledge Economy.