Point of Sale Display Bans: Wrong Way to Deter Smoking
Friday, July 30, 2010 2:45 pm | By Anthony Lizan

A new report published in the Journal of Pediatrics has big government regulators excited. The report states that point of sale displays (POSD) of tobacco products increase teenage smoking. The main researcher, Lisa Henriksen PhD, recommends banning these displays outright. What Dr. Henriksen and the spate of news articles announcing her findings fail to realize, is that a POSD ban would pose a serious threat to both intellectual and physical property.

Trademarks allow companies to differentiate their products in the market, and give individuals the information needed to make informed choices when purchasing goods. They signal a level of brand quality that consumers can trust. This relationship between retailers and buyers is the bedrock of our modern economy. By denying tobacco companies the ability to display their trademarks, a POSD ban would be a flagrant infringement on intellectual property rights. What is the point of having a trademark if no one can see it?

A ban would also impose burdensome regulations on private businesses. Since Cigarette companies are banned from advertising over the airwaves, they devote 90% of their marketing budgets on point of sale displays. A ban would severely hurt these companies, potentially leading to massive job losses.

Moreover, while it’s likely the goal of anti-tobacco interests to hurt cigarette companies economically, they’re forgetting that small businesses would also be affected. Many POSDs are located in small convenience stores, groceries, and gas stations. A ban would deter business from these stores as well, further hampering our economy at a time we can least afford it.

While it may be true that smoking displays increase the likelihood of teenage smoking, deterring bad behavior by infringing upon property rights should never be an option.

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Property Rights Slowly Eroding...One Drip at a Time
Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:31 pm | By Anthony Lizan

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” never met Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn). His bill, “America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act (H.R. 5088),” would remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act’s definition. By removing this one word, the federal government’s regulatory authority over private property would increase exponentially.

The implications of this bill on individual property rights are frightening. By removing the word “navigable,” the government could regulate every body of water in the U.S. from small ponds to irrigation canals. Bureaucrats could impose onerous new restrictions and permit requirements that would hamper economic growth, especially for small businesses.

Owners of desert property would be the only ones truly safe from this bill, except for the fact that the government already owns most of the deserts in America.

Rep. Oberstar claims that his bill "would restore, not expand, the geographic scope of Clean Water Act." He even has Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator, bolster his point. As Americans for Tax Reform has noted, the EPA has no credibility when it comes to regulatory restraint. They have continually overstepped their bounds and have attempted to subvert individual property many times. The EPA would administer the law if H.R. 5088 gets passed.

While the government may not necessarily regulate every body of water if H.R. 5088 makes it out of committee, the fact is, it leaves the door wide open for future regulatory abuses. Why give the government more power than it already has?

To see PRA’s letter condemning H.R. 5088, click here.


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Not so Shocking Study Finds 97 Percent of BitTorrent Files Illegal
Monday, July 26, 2010 5:33 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

The Australian based University of Ballarat came out with a study finding that 97 percent of files shared over BitTorrent networks contain infringing content. This really isn’t a huge revelation but does confirm what many have been saying for sometime now.

The study concluded:

Overally, 89.3% of torrents were given a definitive legality. Of those 89.3% of torrents, 99.66% are infringing. If we assume that all of the 16 cases of ambiguous legality are not infringing, we arrive at an overall figure of 97.9% infringing content shared over BitTorrent networks.

The three most shared categories were movies, music, and TV shows and of those files ZERO were found to be shared legally.

I have often written about the harm imposed by illegal downloading on the economy as a whole, but often left out of the equation is the effect on consumers. Networks are being overrun with infringing works delivered via P2P. When I go online and stream a movie or TV show, legally mind you, my user experience is almost exclusively determined by the amount of activity on my ISP. (the series of tubes is not limitless, after all) When someone else on my network is clogging up the system by pirating countless movies or the latest in software, I lose out. Moreover, as is the case with any form of theft, when a company sees a loss in profit due to shoplifting or pirating, they incur those expenses by raising prices on honest consumers.

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