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CONTACT: Andrea Knutsen
January 27, 2005
(202) 289-8928
Middle Ground Lacking in P2P Debate
PFF Author Faults Public Knowledge as Unconstructive

WASHINGTON D.C. - The Red State-Blue State divide doesn't come close to rivaling the P2P debate, and there exists a dearth of moderate voices seeking intellectual property protection in a way that ensures innovation. So writes Patrick Ross, vice president of communications and external affairs for The Progress & Freedom Foundation, in a "Perspectives" piece on CNET titled "Content vs. File Sharers Leaves Us Out."

Particularly disappointing, Ross writes, has been the performance of the advocacy group Public Knowledge. Ross has great respect for Public Knowledge founder Gigi Sohn, but notes she promised in 2002 that her new group would be a moderate voice, brokering differences between the content and file-sharing community. The track record of Public Knowledge has been one of obstructionism, reveling in blocking any effort to negotiate reasoned legislative language designed to protect digital content online.

"Gigi speaks for some consumers, those consumers who enjoy obtaining unauthorized content for free from P2P networks," Ross writes, but doesn't speak for consumers willing to pay for content. "Why not? Because by defending those who distribute it for free, she stymies offerings at a price point other than free." "Gigi also misdirects the debate by arguing she is attempting to protect the public domain," Ross writes, noting "the P2P debate isn't about the length of current copyright protections. A new music single or a pre-release movie that pops up on eDonkey wouldn't be eligible to enter the public domain for some time under any copyright regime."

Not surprisingly, a member of Public Knowledge's advisory board is a P2P industry lobbyist. That lobbyist has been a Public Knowledge advisor since the group's founding, and Ross notes that he and Gigi Sohn frequently use the same talking points in criticizing legislative efforts to protect digital content in a technology-friendly manner.

"I watched the Induce Act debate with some frustration. I sympathized with the bill's backers, who wanted to target companies designed to profit from the criminal behavior of others. I also sympathized with those in the technology community who feared that legislation that could lead to unintended consequences," says Ross. "It may be impossible to bridge the gap between Red States and Blue States. But as we enter the 109th Congress with the digital content debate very much alive, I'll be looking for anyone who wants to join me in seeking that elusive middle ground."

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation