Several readers took issue with my previous post relating anti-infringement technology to anti-cancer technology. So let me clarify what I was and wasn’t trying to say.
First, I wasn’t saying that infringement is okay. It’s not. And I wasn’t trying to draw a moral equivalence between infringers and copyright owners. Remember: I analogized infringement to cancer.
Second, I wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t do anything about infringement. Certainly, some anti-infringement measures are worth trying.
Third, I wasn’t saying that it would be wrong to deploy an effective, side-effect-free anti-infringement technology, if such a thing actually existed.
What I was trying to do was to draw an analogy between anti-infringement technologies and anti-cancer technologies, and to point out that people think about these two technology problems very differently, and without good reason. Here are four examples of the difference:
(1) Many people in the policy debate just assume that there must be a technology available that can prevent infringement. Nobody makes such an assumption about cancer.
(2) Doctors who say “I don’t know how to cure cancer” are not accused of being pro-cancer. But software companies that say “I don’t know how to stop infringement” are accused of being pro-infringement.
(3) When a company claims to have a foolproof anti-infringement technology, their claim is often taken seriously, even if no evidence is presented to support it. But nobody would believe a claim that a drug can cure cancer, based only on unsupported assertions by a drug company vice president. Actual scientific evidence is required.
(4) Congress or the FDA wouldn’t dream of mandating the use of a particular cancer treatment (thereby banning other treatments), without independent testing of the proposed treatment and a lengthy and open discussion of how and whether it worked. Yet when it comes to infringement, mandating secret or poorly tested technologies is taken seriously as a policy option.
For some reason, the development of anti-infringment technology is treated as a political problem that can be solved by dealmaking or by decree.