Amongst the many erudite thoughts to drip from the quill of Thomas Jefferson, only one has ever gotten me hot under the collar:
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
Well, that’s all fine and dandy if your estates keep you rolling in tobacco so you can crank out political philosophy all day (lifted, by the way, from the likes of Locke, Rousseau and Machiavelli), but if you’re the taper-maker, you’re going to be a little miffed if someone’s knocking off your products to the point that you’ve got to lay off your workers and people are suing you blind because fugazi tapers with your logos are burning down houses.
This Monday, the White House signed into law the PRO-IP Act, which will go a long way in helping to curb the problem of counterfeit goods. Unfortunately, what most folks who watch this area of the law see is a piece of legislation to loathe as much as they loathe the music industry, as something that might impede them from enjoying the media they want, regardless of whether they paid for it or not. So whineth the pundits at Portfolio.com:
But how much will the new law, the PRO-IP Act, actually do to combat digital piracy? Is it the silver bullet the music business needs to save an industry that is shrinking by hundreds of millions of dollars per year? My answers: Not much, and no.
Nay, nay, dear heart: lift your angry eyes from your iPod and see that this legislation is much bigger than Britney.
This legislation isn’t to save the record industry; it’s to make sure the government is doing it’s job to protect consumers. It’s to make sure that the replacement parts in your car are legit, and don’t end up causing horrific accidents. It’s to make sure that the medications you take are legit, and don’t end up killing you. Most importantly, it’s about saving American jobs (I put concern of country above my own personal well-being, but that’s just me).
Luckily, there are folks out there that get it. Stephen Koff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reminds us of the stakes:
Ohio companies including Gorman-Rupp Co., a Mansfield pump manufacturer, and Dana Corp., a Toledo maker of auto parts, could benefit if the bill stops foreign companies from stealing their engineering, packaging and sales literature.
So could Ford, Bendix and smaller companies such as Will-Burt Co. of Orville, whose sales of a lighting system in China declined from $1 million in 2001 to less than $250,000 in 2004 after a Chinese company that was supposed to market Will-Burt products there started selling Will-Burt knockoffs instead.
The bill, pushed by Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich for several years, grew out of complaints by businesses that found themselves competing with illegal, foreign-made products that looked just like their own — down to the UPC codes in some cases.
Well, we’re thankful for heroes like Sen. George Voinovich who are looking out for American manufacturers and workers, as well as Sens. Leahy, Specter and Bayh, who also were the original champions of the legislation. They understand that it’s about protecting the small and medium businesses that keep our families employed and our economy going – despite the best efforts of mortgage speculators.
As for Mr. Jefferson? Ironically enough, he was our first pirate hunter, going after the Barbary Pirates.* So I guess he did know the value of property and commerce.