Thursday, October 16, 2008

A quick take on the IP czar

Amidst everything else that's been going on in Washington DC lately, congress recently passed the "PRO-IP" bill (here's the Senate version). One of the many things it does is establish a cabinet-level "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator". Apparently the Justice Department was not best pleased with this, but (as always keeping in mind that I'm not a lawyer), it doesn't seem completely out of line that such a post would exist. Regulation of patents, at least, is on the short list of powers granted to congress in Article I, Section 8 of the constitution, so this is not like establishing a cabinet-level post for, say, design of postage stamps.

On the other hand, we seem to have done fine for a couple of centuries without such a post, and as always the devil is in the details. This being legislation, there are a lot of details. Since I'm still not a lawyer, and legislation is written as deltas against the mammoth U.S. Code, making it essentially impossible to just read through a bill and know what it means, and as far as I can tell the emphasis of the thing is on piracy and not on rationalizing IP law in general, I'm not prepared to say whether we might need this particular realization of the idea.

That said, it's at least worth noting that such a thing has happened. New cabinet-level posts don't get created every day.

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