Stiffer Laws for Piracy

Last week the "Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act" (H.R. 4279) was introduced with bipartisan support in the House. The bill is an attempt on a crackdown of everything from fake drugs to bogus handbags, especially pirated movies, TV shows and music. Besides heavy fines on copyright infringement, the bill authorizes the creation of a new chief advisor on intellectual property, and creates a new Intellectual Property Enforcement Division of the Justice Department (WHIPER - I'm not making this up) budgeted at $25 million a year. This Act isn't the only anti-piracy bill under consideration. Last month, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the Intellectual Property Enforcement Act of 2007 that authorizes the Department of Justice to file civil lawsuits against file-sharers and creates a new FBI unit dedicated to enforcing intellectual property laws. An interesting take on this legislation was written by Brian Lawler in The Motley Fool. He argues that the bill overlooks the most crucial reason for protecting intellectual property rights: spurring innovation. He thinks that instead of "worrying about the small amount of counterfeit drugs entering the country (1 percent), perhaps Congress should focus on ways to create new incentives for pharmaceutical innovation." His argument is that Congress could encourage pharmaceutical firms to plow more money into drug development if it lengthened the time during which companies could exclusively market their approved compounds. Opponents would argue that the shorter the patent for drugs, the quicker generics would hit the market and the cheaper it would be for consumers. Seriously, music copyrights last 95 years in the U.S. (50 in England), while most drugs only have about 14 years of market exclusivity. Congress is trying to protect Britney Spears (who has sold over 83 million records worldwide, according to Zomba Label Group), while openly encouraging knockoffs (generics) of drugs once they are off their patent. In the case of biologics, these generics aren't even made the same. What would happen if record companies had to do tests on the music (and pay for them) before they were allowed to release records - and then not get to release everything if it was deemed unsafe/bad? I don't know if a longer patent for drugs is the answer. However, if this leads to more research and innovation and eventually the prevention/cure of more diseases isn't this what we all want? Of course, the cynic would respond that longer patents would just lead to more/bigger profits by the pharmaceutical company. But isn't this what it does for record companies and artists? I do know that stiffer penalties for producing fake drugs is not going to deter criminals. So basically we need a $25 million WHIPER department to protect movie and music downloads. BS