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Senator Wyden Outlines “Freedom to Compete” Agenda at CES

· January 10, 2013

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Throughout the history of making and enforcing intellectual property and Internet policy, stakeholders such as the tech industry and consumer public interest groups generally have had to play defense and prevent the status quo from getting worse.  But it should not always be that way.  Fortunately, 2013 may finally be the year the United States Congress focuses on a positive innovation agenda.  In an excellent speech at CES yesterday, Senator Ron Wyden — introduced as “the Senator from the Internet” — outlined an optimistic “Freedom to Compete” agenda for 2013.  The transcript is worth reading; Wyden champions the economic impact of the Internet, and the people and businesses who rely on it and fight for it, and addresses potential reforms in areas such as copyright, patent, privacy, international trade, cyber security, competition, and data caps.  He also focused on the importance of not favoring incumbents, a frequent topic on DisCo:

While government cannot be fully counted on to stand up to incumbent interests, there are champions of innovation in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who will stand against those seeking rig the system to deny innovation a fair shot in the marketplace.  The incumbents often seek special help from the government, claiming they want a marketplace from government intervention; but they don’t get it.  The role of the government is to address market failures, and to block cartels, monopolies, and anti-competitive forces that interfere with the effective operation of free enterprise.  A legitimate function of the government is to defend the market against the forces interfering with its efficient function.

In June, Senator Wyden wrote a guest post for DisCo entitled “The Internet and Disruption,” where he wrote that the “disruptive, creative power of the Internet has allowed innovation to overcome the incumbents time after time,” so it is not surprising to hear him speak on this topic.  Still, it is encouraging to see these ideas framed as policy goals for the 113th Congress.

Competition

Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.

Intellectual Property

The Internet enables the free exchange of ideas and content that, in turn, promote creativity, commerce, and innovation. However, a balanced approach to copyright, trademarks, and patents is critical to this creative and entrepreneurial spirit the Internet has fostered. Consequently, it is our belief that the intellectual property system should encourage innovation, while not impeding new business models and open-source developments.