As announced yesterday, Aereo, a streaming broadcast TV company, was found to be violating copyrights on programming it was providing, given that the almost live broadcasts it made available represented a public performance of the content and hence was illegal under copyright law. In plain speak, Aereo’s entire business model was to take that which didn’t belong to it and sell it. Try selling access to your neighbor’s guest room on AirBnB, or taking your neighbor’s otherwise unused car to use for your own Uber sideline, and see how things work out.
The benefits of government-funded university research are not shared widely enough in society, with universities retaining full ownership, for the most part, of their academic work. This means they get to profit from the government-funded research, and rarely have to share it with the taxpayers. By mandating that the research it spends so much taxpayer money on enter the public sphere, the government can more effectively spread the benefits of its own largesse and do its duty to all its citizens to provide them with the full benefit of what it produces with their tax money.
Much of the federal government’s communications core management and operations hasn’t changed since the General Services Administration created the Federal Telecommunications Service in 1960.
If the demonization of the enforcement of intellectual property rights were to catch on, the brightest among us would be significantly less likely to invent in every case where the benefits of expending the effort do not overwhelmingly outweigh the costs.