Parasites vs the rule of law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 March, 2004, 12:00am

I refer to the column 'Robbed blind by the copyright illusionists' (February 24), by Jake van der Kamp.

He misses the point, in fact the very name, of intellectual property. If, as he suggests, the price of goods should be based on quality and cost of manufacture alone, then how much would he expect to be paid for his column? After all, anyone, anywhere can type up a few hundred words and email them to the Post.

Intellectual property protection is economic incentive to carry out research, develop quality and innovate. Those things cost money and are subject to all the vagaries of economics (they suck in the monopolies and people who must be paid to do these jobs). If a top brand had no value there would be no interest in stealing it. But forget cost for a moment (as the columnist apparently has) and let me address his other point: why should we spend tax dollars to enforce overseas copyright? Three words: 'rule of law'. We have intellectual property laws in part to attract business and get reciprocal protection for our own products. Not that the laws are always right, but we do not enforce them for the benefit of the French fashionista. It is good business.

The Robin Hood legend is essentially built on his personal integrity. International image is largely about attracting overseas business, is it not? In my opinion Hong Kong has done very well out of software piracy, for example. The population has achieved an expert skill base and a breadth of computer literacy that it almost certainly could never have afforded legally.

That is not, however, Robin Hood redressing social balance. It is parasitism and the trouble with being a parasite is that you only grow until your host ceases to tolerate you or you drown in the effluent you produce.