Bridge Span 17-3: The Firm Grounding of an Intangible Foundation

Good ideas are worth repeating. In Washington it is a necessity to repeat good ideas so that they are not drowned out by the great abundance of bad ideas, to give them a firm grounding even when the topic is intangible. To that end, Madery Bridge joined a host of other organizations signing a letter to Congress to share an outline of the foundations of strong support for intellectual property rights.

Starting with the very founding of America, intellectual property rights have been of central importance. As written in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:  “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Why discuss intellectual property in the founding documents of the United States? The Founding Fathers fundamentally believed both in property and in protecting the ownership right in a creator’s works. Just as a property right in real property might inspire a person to purchase a home, to live in it peacefully, to determine how it is used and to improve the property, similarly providing a right in a creator’s works encourages such works to be created, reinvented, and deployed at the creator’s discretion.

A fundamental requirement for innovation to flourish is to guarantee the creator or inventor a property interest in their new works, ownership and protection of the intellectual property rights. That interest not only encourages risk taking, but in turn results in benefits to the economy. No better way exists to encourage creation and see it made available for the public good in one fashion or another. This is to say that the public good, and individual rights, including those in intellectual property, coincide. And that public good is driving the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is increasingly moving to intellectual asset based economy, a knowledge economy. That is, an economy where knowledge and innovation is used to create intangible, and also tangible, value. As noted in the letter, “…IP-intensive industries added $6.6 trillion to the value of GDP in 2014, equal to 38.2 percent of total GDP. In a knowledge-based global economy, America’s ability to remain a world leader in creativity and innovation depends on strong protection of IP.”

Also as written, “The most recent report on IP-related jobs in the U.S., by the Department of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office, found that in 2014, direct employment in the most IP intensive industries accounted for 27.9 million jobs. Indirect activities associated with those industries provided an additional 17.1 million jobs, for a total of 45 million jobs, or 30 percent of all jobs in the economy.”

Copyright alone forms a sizeable portion of the U.S. economy, including 5.5 million workers who work in copyright industries, $1.2 trillion to the nation’s GDP, and foreign sales of nearly $180 billion. All in all, core copyright industries are seven percent of the economy.

Such innovation is the key to a growing economy, including the online economy. For a variety of reasons then, these rights must respected everywhere, including on the Internet. Creators, inventors, and knowledge based workers will continue to create value in our economy as risk taking and invention is championed by our society, elected officials and regulators. In turn, our economy will flourish bringing great jobs and better careers.

In Missouri, legislators are moving to enhance laws already on the books discouraging muni broadband. Currently the law says that no municipality may offer competitive broadband service unless certain conditions are met, such as, “A majority of voters in the jurisdiction approve a measure granting the local government permission to move forward with a plan” or “Other service added together, including wired or mobile, reach fewer than 50% of the addresses in the jurisdiction” or “A business or government is making a request for gigabit access that all existing providers are ‘unwilling or unable’ to provide.”

In Virginia, legislation is on its way to the governor’s desk to add transparency requirements for municipal broadband, to give taxpayers the visibility into transactions, agreements and government expenditures related to government broadband services that they deserve. Government-funded broadband authorities should not be shielded from the public’s view. If for any reason government enters a marketplace to directly compete with the private sector then there must be strict safeguards to protect taxpayers and the health of the private marketplace.

Why are such protections necessary? Because of the long line of big political promises that only led to taxpayer’s money being drained away for nothing.

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