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Wealth Virtues Journal: January 20, 2012

The Better Road or the Better Mousetrap?

Filed under: Virtues in Business — Tags: , , , — James Ward @ 8:51 pm
© 2009 Poor Richard Web Press, LLC

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Along with many other Americans, I wrote to my Senators and Congressman to express my displeasure with SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in the Senate by expressing how a poorly written piece of legislation rammed through the legislative process could cost more in money and freedom that what they were intended to protect. It reminded me of Obamacare.

As a Conservative, I was appalled that it was not given the careful deliberative process that the Founding Fathers (James Madison in particular) envisioned. Many Democrats and Republicans blindly supported the bills for a good reason; American intellectual property is being stolen. The problem is that Congress was going down the path of widespread government-controlled censorship, mostly at the behest of the movie industry.  Don’t get me wrong – I love what Hollywood makes.  I am a movie hound.  Hollywood is a great American money engine and they are damn good at it. I do side with the entertainment industry, and agree that something has to be done about piracy; but slamming the Internet is not the way to do it. Fortunately, the effort by many citizens to write their representatives with a lot of help from Wikipedia, WordPress, Google and others had Congress scrap the current bill. With the case of the protests against SOPA/PIPA by Americans of the entire political spectrum, Congress now realizes that Americans still want to protect Intellectual property, but not with the added expense of government-imposed censorship to protect a small minority, especially when there are existing laws that apparently are not being enforced.

There was once an old saying that stated, “if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” That may have been true before roads, but any good businessperson knows that mediocre but usable mousetraps invented in a place just off Interstate 95 will have greater sales than the better mousetrap made in a place near a dirt road in the mountains.

Remember video cassette recorders? Beta was the best, by far, over VHS for quality. The problem was that the Beta tapes only played for a half an hour, whereas VHS sacrificed quality to just good enough to allow a 2 hour movie on one tape.  The highway in that case, was time.

Now we have Netflix and Amazon that send us movies right to our own home theater systems. Sure, I love going to the brick and mortar theaters (especially the few clean ones) for a new release, but the popcorn at my house is better and cheaper, plus I can pause a movie when I have to use the bathroom.

The Internet is the highway (duh). What the movie industry will have to realize and deal with is distribution is now in the hands of many. The Internet is the 50-lane Interstate with many on-ramps. The SOPA and PIPA bills before Congress would have figuratively blown up huge parts of the highway to make sure people wouldn’t be able to visit a flea market with pirated stuff.

Post WWII Europe was simply a series of small countries where every time you drove a few hours and hit a border, you checked passports, exchanged currency, or worse depending if you were going to a communist controlled area. Europe flourished one they went to a near-single currency and open borders. Because some countries still clung to a failed socialist fake utopia (that’s you Greece), Europe is suffering financially, but that does not mean that Europe goes back to closed borders and separate currencies. They have to isolate, and solve the problem. It is the same with Intellectual property. The movie industry and other owners of intellectual property have to work with Internet service providers to make it safer for open commerce for all legitimate businesses, while finding creative ways to eliminate property theft.

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