Market solves infringement problem? Yeah, right.

The NASDAQ stock market, photo by Wikimedia.

The NASDAQ stock market, photo by Wikimedia.

“Let the market solve the problem” is a familiar refrain especially for those who want smaller government and fewer regulations. Frequently the market does solve the problem because the government is unable or not successful. The government’s failed attempt to combat piracy—SOPA—is an example. The public roundly opposed it and said that it was overkill, a threat to security, privacy, and free expression, leading to the now famous and somewhat embarrassing internet blackout. Rights holders can resort to the “notice and takedown” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but explain its limitations like a game of “whack-a-mole”—take down a piracy website only to have it pop up again under a different URL.

We need what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand” of the market. Be patient, the market will decide how to fix this infringement problem. Allow innovation and experimentation, let new technologies develop, and welcome new players in the market to emerge to take on these battles.

The market has emerged.

Why fight piracy, when you can monetize it? Since piracy cannot be completely eliminated, why not capitalize on it? Rights holders can get a piece of the pie. For instance, they can hire companies to search for their content on YouTube. Instead of suing and taking down the content, a rights holder can monetize the content by leaving it on YouTube and collecting part of the advertising revenue.

Bullying is another money-maker. Copyright trolls can sweep the net, find alleged infringers and scare them just enough so they settle out of court. Cease and desist and pay a fine or else. Cha-ching! A quick $500! Now we’re talking!

Image Technologies Laboratories (ITL) is an emerging global company that uses the latest technology to find images found on the web, finally addressing the unmet need faced by photographers who are ripped off every day. ITL is excited moving forward announcing in a press release that not only is there a business backlog, “the market has never been more saturated with the mishandling of digital content and the theft of copyrighted property,” suggesting a sustainable business.

Even better yet: allow people to invest in infringement.

Enter RightsCorp Inc., a publicly traded company. Their innovative business model—a market solution—uses the best digital crawler (patent pending) to sweep peer-to-peer sites, and find alleged infringers. Using the trolling method, they collect legal damages and settle out of court. Alleged infringers cough up revenue that is then evenly split between RightsCorp and the rights holders. Next RightsCorp took the business plan to a new level by selling stock in the company. Let’s share the wealth (while recouping some start-up costs) and sell company stock. Wise investors can bet on the permanency of piracy.

The market – the ultimate problem solver – NOT!

About Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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