Who Can They Sue?

Pretty busy today, so two quick links:

1. First, go to Lawmeme here and here and follow the links.  I had similar feelings to Ernest’s when looking at the EFF petition.  I think the RIAA’s picking poor targets, the suits won’t solve much, and their money and time could be better spent. But I can’t say it should be illegal for them to sue the 12 year old instead of the 25 year old “pimple scarred gangbanger.” Moreover,  I’m not sure I can be “outraged” by the very idea of the RIAA suing people, which is kind of how the EFF petition comes off when it says the RIAA’s “attack[ing] the public.”  There are many ways I’d like to see the law changed so I am bothered that the law doesn’t fit my views, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to any lawsuits against “the public” (whoever that is).

I am outraged, though, that Congress has not seriously considered any alternate plans, and that’s why I still signed the petition.

Also: though I don’t know if these suits will be a sufficient deterrent, many friends have asked me about how to avoid getting sued – they seem seriously worried about the prospect. Of course, they’re still going to keep downloading for now. But they do seem to scared to share.

2. Professors Solum and Volokh have a nice IP justification debate.

The opening of the Volokh piece caught me off guard (“I’ve recently gotten some messages asking why intellectual property makes sense at all”) and colored my experience reading both posts. Does anyone actually think the differences between physical and intellectual property mean that there should be no intellectual property rights? Even Volokh concedes that people shouldn’t have unlimited rights in their intellectual property. The debate should be about the limits on those rights, not about whether the rights should exist in general – it should be a debate about “some”s, not all and nothing.

In any case, drawing the correct analogy (to physical property or club goods, for instance) can help us find what level of “some” is correct. But we also have to recognize the unique features of intellectual property, as Professor Solum does.