“Internet Freedom” Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Steal
Various groups that favor such things as making the Internet a public utility have declared today “Internet Freedom Day.” That’s a euphemism, unfortunately, meant to disguise a deeper animosity toward property rights. What they falsely label “freedom of expression” is often a transparent aversion to straightforward intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property, or IP, simply refers to the legal protection accorded to creators in the same way that someone possesses a natural physical property right. The only distinction is that IP protects inventions, artistic expressions and distinguishing trademarks. Although opponents of IP falsely attempt to distinguish it from physical property by, among other things, asserting that physical property is finite whereas IP is infinite, that’s a sloppy distinction without a difference. After all, if your automobile sits unused in a garage as you read this, then according to their logic its social utility would be increased by allowing someone who doesn’t own your car to use it while you are not. Try telling a recording artist that after investing effort and financial resources in securing costly studio time and top-quality backup singers and band members, he or she has no right to the creation or to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor.
Protection of IP is necessary to not only secure for innovators the just fruits of their labor, but also to provide societal incentive for innovation. No reasonable person opposes Internet freedom, but nor should that concept be used to disguise animosity toward property rights.
Today, IP remains under threat from foreign piracy, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Businesses reliant upon IP account for more than 60% of American exports, which are by nature more vulnerable to foreign piracy. Those businesses also employ almost 55 million workers, pay their employees an average wage 30% higher than non-IP counterparts and account for $5.7 trillion of the nation’s GDP. Meanwhile, parasitic overseas websites continue to threaten that IP wellspring of innovation, jobs and prosperity. Although estimates vary, foreign IP piracy now amounts to a cumulative enterprise that inflicts at least $500 billion in loss annually and now accounts for approximately 25% of all Internet traffic.
Each moment, rogue sites across the world seek to make an easy and illegal profit by selling things they had no hand in creating. That has to stop. Although many proponents of today’s so-called “Internet Freedom Day” will falsely demonize future efforts to curtail IP theft, they must be recognized as apologists for illegality. Just something to bear in mind amidst the synthetic hoopla.