Monday, January 07, 2008

Boyle on the New Economy Year in Review

James Boyle reviewed the new economy of 2007 in the FT on New Year's Day. As with all James's writings it comes highly recommended.

"This year did not offer anything as fabulous as Senator Ted Stevens’ explanation of the internet as “not a big truck” but “a series of tubes” – a gaffe that ended up generating both its own music video and its own wikipedia entry. In fact, 2007 provided several arguable violations of the Stevens Principle – namely that “understanding a technology disqualifies one from regulating it.” Only time will tell whether these constitute a trend. It is not a “best of”, but here were three moments of happy surprise in what was otherwise a fairly grim year. In reverse order...3. US presidential hopefuls discover technology...

2. Surprising flashes of evidence-based policymaking continue The last few years have had several remarkable and unusual examples of intellectual property policy being made based on... gulp... empirical evidence about likely effects. Normally the purest example of faith-based policy, intellectual property, has been remarkably resistant to what the Bush administration derisively calls “reality-based” world views. Yet in 2005 and 2006, the remarkable Gowers Review in the UK and the European Union’s review of the database directive both actually attempted to model rigorously the effects of the various policies that were proposed and to test anecdototal claims against actual data. True, those efforts were not always successful. Despite a review that clearly showed that the database directive was not working, the Commission succumbed to tide of political pressure and kept it in place. But in 2007 the Gowers Review proposals on music copyright extension and personal copying were both kept alive, despite considerable opposition. The UK government, to its great credit, seemed to think that a study of actual effects was an important part of the policy process. True, looking at the facts does not guarantee good policy. But it is a promising beginning. Now if only the government would implement some of the recommendations on limitations and exceptions to copyright...

1. Maybe we need to fix patent law....?"

No comments: