Protect Intellectual Property Rights; Stop Internet Theft at Home and Abroad

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard K. Armey, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The imperative to protect the rights of property owners is something the founding generation of Americans understood. They understood it as a moral value and as an economic necessity for any nation that sought to be strong, free and prosperous.

The founders also understood that the definition of property, and the attendant rights, could not be limited to those tangible things such as currency, livestock, homes, manufactured goods or any other things that individuals might own. Creations of the mind and imagination - music, art, literature, scientific discovery and inventions - were the hallmarks of a free and growing society, were property and had to be protected.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution reads: [Congress shall have the power]: 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.

They rightly understood that the real engine of economic growth for America would be the creative brilliance of the American people. And they knew that those products of the intellect and imagination were more vulnerable to theft and exploitation than a tangible piece of property that one could see being stolen. To put it more simply: It would be harder to miss someone walking off with your horse than to see someone walking off with your song. As someone raised on country and western music, I am particular to protecting both quarter horses and music.

And as an economist, former congressman, co-founder of Freedom Works and champion of the rights of property owners, I am watching with keen interest the actions of the Supreme Court in the case of MGM v. Grokster.

Grokster is a peer to peer (P2P) network that allows members to "share" songs, movies, software and other creative works without paying for them.

Taking something for free that you would otherwise have to pay for is called stealing. You can't walk into a store and take a music CD, a DVD movie or software for a computer game without paying for it. Yet everyday, tens of millions of copyright-protected songs, movies, computer games and other pieces of intellectual property are downloaded for free - stolen over Grokster and other similar P2P networks.

Grokster doesn't just turn a blind eye to the theft - what I'd call willful ignorance - but encourages it in order to make millions of dollars in advertising revenues each year based on the number of people who steal copyright-protected property. There is little dispute that more than 90 percent of the activity that Grokster profits from is illegal. …