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IP, Jobs, and the Economy
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:37 am | By Kelsey Zahourek

Since its introduction in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act has stirred passionate reactions from both sides of the debate, and as soon as the House version is introduced, no doubt those debates will be rehashed. No matter what you think of legislation to go after rogue websites, let’s not forget intellectual property is a vital part of the economy and benefits society as a whole.

The proliferation of rogue websites has affected nearly every sector of our economy, from pharmaceuticals to software to manufacturing. These industries employ millions of Americans and at a time of record unemployment, we can’t afford to be putting these jobs at risk. Additionally, intellectual property industries contribute more than a third of the growth achieved by U.S. private industry, and if protections are not upheld and respected, there is less incentive for technological exploration and no catalyst for economic growth.

Its been said often but the narrative holds true, its next to impossible to compete with free. Websites that ignore IP rights undermine incentives to create cutting edge innovations, the next life-saving drugs, or new business models that make it easier to access content online.

Industries have made great strides in coming together to fight against online theft. The creation of the Copyright Alert System and efforts by companies to go after illegal online pharmacies, I believe, will yield positive results and will minimize the need for government intervention.

Not surprisingly, the protection of IP has long been a bipartisan issue because lawmakers understand what’s at stake. The problem of rogue websites is not going away anytime soon and I look forward to the continued debate on what role the government should take to defend creators’ rights. In the end, intellectual property is a constitutional right and deserves to be respected and protected, no matter what your political affiliation may be.

 

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Fraser Institute Report Confirms the U.S. has Strong but Slipping Property Rights.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:43 am | By J. Michael Wahlen

The Fraser Institute , a free market think tank, has recently released its annual The Economic Freedom of the World Report. As the title suggests, this report measures the economic freedom of 141 countries using five categories: size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation of credit, labor and business. Hong Kong remained number one on the list, a position it has held for nearly 25 years, followed by Singapore and New Zealand.

The report shows a worrying trend for the United States. America’s economic freedom rank has fallen from 4th in the year 2000 to 10th in 2011. Even more concerning, the U.S. fell 3 spots in each of the last two years, implying that it is on a strongly negative path. The fall in rankings can be attributed primarily to three areas: security of property rights, access to sound money and freedom to trade internationally.

These results are broadly consistent with the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) produced here at the Property Rights Alliance. We too find that the United States is in a strong position in its protection of property rights, but not the strongest, ranking it 18th overall in 2011. The falling in property rights rankings in both indexes has been due to a deteriorating legal environment in the United States as property rights have not been consistently upheld by the court system. Abuses of eminent domain have been one of the largest problems in this category.

The Economic Freedom of the World report should serve as a reminder that we need to strengthen our property rights and increase our economic freedom. The report notes, as does the IPRI, that Nobel economists such as Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Gary Becker have consistently found that economic freedom produces economic prosperity and increases general wellbeing. On the other hand, citizens such as Susette Kelo can attest to the pain that is caused when these rights are forgotten.
 

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An Epilogue to the Kelo Case
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 4:35 pm | By J. Michael Wahlen

Yesterday, Reason Magazine featured a great article that chronicles a new twist in the famous Kelo vs. New London case. This landmark case radically increased the size of government under the eminent domain clause by forcing Susette Kelo to leave her house so that the City of New London could use the land for “economic development” in 2005.

The new twist comes from a story recounted by a journalist and author Jeff Benedict. Benedict recounts a recent book reading of The Little Pink House (written on the Kelo case) in which Justice Richard N. Palmer, one of the 4 judges who voted against Kelo on the Connecticut Supreme Court was present. After the reading, Palmer came up to Susette Kelo and apologized. He explained to her that if he had known what New London would do with the land, he would have ruled differently.

While this change in opinion at the time would have swayed the 4-3 margin and allowed Susette to keep her home, it does not change the circumstances now. Kelo was ultimately forced to leave her “little pink house” which was razed for “economic development” that never came . As Reason notes, Justice Palmer, among others, should be sorry.

While Palmer’s apology doesn’t change the situation, it does go a long way to show the folly in taking property rights away from people. Hopefully we can all learn the lesson of Justice Palmer; that the property rights of citizens should be held sacred, and should not be sacrificed to the government in the name of economic development, or corporate gain.
 

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