The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on on-line intellectual property piracy. A recent blog post described the hearing held on February 16, 2011. One might be skeptical when a report purports to suggest that internet piracy costs 2.5 million jobs or goods valued at over $650 million, but the wary might do well to be concerned about the scope of the investigation.
It is one thing-- and probably a good one-- if the topic of discussion is counterfeit products, especially those such as pharmaceutical products that implicate health hazards. However, the hearing also ranged from counterfeiting to other types of infringement, to keyword advertising, to "piracy." These are all different topics, far too broad to be swept under one rug or covered in one bill. The issues raised by counterfeiting are fundamentally different in nature from the public policy considerations-- addressed by the courts regularly-- that arise in keyword advertising disputes. And it is not proper to talk about "infringement" as "piracy." In short, the issues are nuanced, with different factors to be considered for different aspects of intellectual property infringement. Congress would do well if it took the time to understand these nuances, and to legislate accordingly.