ITIF has filed these comments in response to the Notice of Inquiry from the Depart of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force seeking input on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyrights and innovation in the Internet Economy. In these comments, ITIF argues that unchecked digital piracy is a threat to the economic welfare of the United States and that more can, and should, be done to limit unauthorized use of copyrighted content online.
Better Enforcement of Online Copyright Would Help, Not Harm, Consumers
Legislation introduced in Congress last month (the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act”) would take an aggressive and needed stand against online piracy, a growing problem that hurts American consumers and costs Americans jobs. Critics of the legislation argue that this bill would hurt free speech, encourage censorship in foreign countries, and cripple the technological infrastructure on which the Internet runs. Not only is this criticism unfounded, but more robust enforcement of digital copyrights would likely lead to a stronger Internet ecosystem and more innovative content and services for consumers.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Innovation Policy
Innovation has become the central driver of economic growth and thus a key focal point of countries’ economic development strategies as they seek to gain competitive advantage. Accordingly, countries are increasingly designing national innovation strategies that seek to coordinate their policies toward skills, scientific research, information and communications technologies (ICTs), tax, trade, intellectual property, government procurement, standards, and regulations in an integrated approach designed to drive economic growth through innovation. While a focus on innovation is positive, countries can implement policies that are either,
- “Good,” benefiting the country and the world simultaneously;
- “Ugly,” benefiting the country at the expense of other nations;
- “Bad” failing to benefit either the country or the world; or
- “Self-destructive,” actually hurting the country while benefiting others.
Notwithstanding the fact that countries can readily implement a range of “Good” innovation policies, there remain far too “Ugly” and “Bad” (and occasionally “Self-destructive”) mercantilist strategies that are neither sustainable nor productive. Moreover, these Ugly, Bad, and Self-destructive mercantilist strategies suffer from three other failures. They: 1) undermine confidence in the international trading system, while reducing global GDP growth; 2) fail to recognize that neither the United States nor Europe—nor even both combined—can indefinitely absorb imports if Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, and others continue to promote exports while limiting imports as their primary path to prosperity; and 3) ignore that raising the productivity across-the-board of all sectors, traded and non-traded, is the surer path to lasting economic growth.
The world must move beyond perceiving the pursuit of economic growth through innovation among nations as a zero-sum game to embracing a perspective that views mutual global prosperity as the goal. The report also provides policymakers a concrete guide to promoting constructive innovation policies while avoiding the ruinous ones. Among those steps are the following:
- Urging institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, U.S. AID and others to steer nations away from export-led growth strategies and other mercantilist policies.
- National leaders should promote win-win innovation policies and avoid zero-sum strategies.
- The World Trade Organization should publish annually all new trade barriers (including non-tariff barriers), whether they are allowed by the rules or not.
- Establish trade zones of nations that exclude nations that persist in pursuing mercantilist policies that violate the principle of free and fair trade.
- Educate policy makers that export-led growth, often abetted by mercantilist practices, is unnecessary, counterproductive, and unsustainable. It misses the far greater opportunity to achieve economic growth through raising domestic productivity levels.
Who's Who in Internet Politics: A Taxonomy of Information Technology Policy
The debate about the future of the Internet is more politically charged than ever. Internet policy issues are becoming more central. All groups involved in Internet policy share a goal of a robust Internet ecosystem but have sometimes vastly different definitions of robust and different views on how to achieve that goal. In this report we identify nine distinct groups shaping Internet policy and how these groups view key Internet policy issues, including net neutrality, copyright, and privacy.
Network Policy and Economic Doctrines
Disagreements over how to craft Internet policy have become more and more contentious and political. Beyond the technical and engineering aspects are economic questions. The points of view of various stakeholders and participants on such matters as privacy, net neutrality, copyright and other issues stem from four major economic philosophies: conservative neo-classical, liberal neo-classical, neo-Keynesian and innovation economics.
In this paper presented at the 2010 Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson analyzes how prevailing economic philosophies drive approaches to network policy in four key areas: broadband competition, net neutrality, copyright and privacy.
This article was published in the June 2011 issue of Telecommunications Policy.