Al Franken Shows His Selfish, Private Property-Loving Side

by Mike Wendy on March 1, 2011

Turns out that Al Franken is really a hardcore, private property-loving capitalist like the rest of us.  In describing why he likes the new copyright bill (called “COICA”) coming out of Congress, Al reveals his self-interested math.  Well, almost…

As Al explains in this Ars Technica article:

…The other side of this, of course, is that this is about, essentially, stealing copyrighted material and selling counterfeit goods. This goes to tens of billions of dollars in theft. Some of the supporters of this were after the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild… I happen to belong to all three of those unions. This doesn’t just affect the jobs of writers and directors and producers; when they’re free to steal all this intellectual material, it changes the business model of a movie. So it really costs the jobs of the technicians and the crew and the craft services people. It changes the entire business model for the industry. It’s not just movies and TV, it’s everything…

All this seems perfectly sensible.  Stealing ain’t cool.  And, those who make a business model out of it should be put out of business.

Of course, this makes him something of a pariah in the open source, there’s-no-such-thing-as-intellectual-property crowd (which, parenthetically, shares many of the same denizens from the pro-Net Neutrality camp).  But, as the article stresses, Al’s concerned because he “has a real stake in these issues.”

I feel your pain, Al.

For Net Neutrality, however, that’s a different story.  There, “free” has no externalized costs – no one is harmed because it’s all upside.  Notes Franken:

…I think the Internet has developed at this incredibly rapid pace because of net neutrality, because of the free nature of it, because a YouTube can start the way YouTube started..[T]he nature of the Internet and the importance of net neutrality is that innovation can come from everyone…

Er, Al?  You overlooked something.  YouTube started by – how should I put it? – turning a blind eye to expropriated content.  Bad habits that your past career would have found insupportable from a business model sense.

If self-interest is the guiding principle here, maybe there’s hope for Al yet.  Looking a little bit deeper, Al might see that he has a stake in Net Neutrality, too.

On the Internet, innovation does come from everyone.  Especially network providers.  Without them, all his union buddies’ content would sit stranded in some movie house in West LA, rotting for want of an easily accessible, global market.

Unfortunately, Net Neutrality regulations – the ones Al ironically pursues – would choke off needed growth on the network side.  They would starve innovation there, hamstringing all the edge innovation, which depends so greatly on the vibrant network to thrive.  Borrowing Al’s words, “It changes the entire business model for the industry.”

Free is fine when someone else picks up the tab, Al.  But as any good capitalist knows, when you have a stake in the game – when you have costs – that picture changes pretty quickly.

Al, care to join our team?



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