September 18, 2020

Wishful Thinking

In recent debates about copyright and technology, pro-regulation people have started using an interesting rhetorical tactic. Rather than trying to rebut challenges to the workability of their proposed solutions, they talk instead about how intensely they want their proposals to be workable.

For example, my Fritz’s Hit List series points out a serious flaw in Sen. Hollings’ regulatory proposal. Here is the response from the Senator’s office (from the Oct. 21 New York Times):

Andy Davis, a spokesman for Mr. Hollings, said the technology-minded critics of the bill were “missing the thrust of the senator’s argument,” which is that there is need for more protection of copyright works if online content and broadband Internet access are to flourish.

I don’t doubt that Senator Hollings wants very badly for there to be a solution to this problem. But wishing for a solution is not the same thing as having one.

The same phenomenon is at work when pro-regulation people “debate” the regulation issue by repeating statistics about copyright infringement. By now, everybody knows that there is a serious problem with copyright compliance, and (almost) everybody wishes for a solution to that problem.

Again, saying that you want a solution doesn’t imply that a solution is possible. And it certainly doesn’t imply that the “solution” you are currently peddling is any good.