Republicans propose copyright reform

Techdirt links to a remarkable Republican policy brief on copyright reform:

The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content: It’s a common misperception that the Constitution enables our current legal regime of copyright protection – in fact, it does not…[L]egislative discussions on copyright/patent reform should be based upon what promotes the maximum “progress of sciences and useful arts” instead of “deserving” financial compensation….

Today’s legal regime of copyright law is seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and added value.

This has the potential to mark the beginning of a huge political shift on intellectual property issues. Heretofore, most copyright reform advocates have pursued a judicial strategy, trying to persuade courts to narrowly read (or overturn) sweeping statutory language. By and large, courts have declined to limit copyright laws in this fashion. If those laws were actually changed, however, that would compel different outcomes.

A policy brief is not even a bill, let alone a law. But the conversation has started.

Walmart increases nearby home values

The Atlantic reports on a University of Chicago working paper (subscription req.) that having a Walmart nearby noticeably affects housing prices:

Home values within a half mile of a new store got a 2 and 3 percent boost. Within a mile, the store pushed up values 1 to 2 percent. That translated to a $7,000 average bump for nearby homes and $4,000 for houses a little further away.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a subscription and thus cannot look at the paper directly, but I have a few questions:

1.  Do other big-box retailers (e.g., Target) similarly boost nearby housing prices?
1a.  Is Walmart’s boost larger?

2.  Is there a corresponding drop in housing prices if/when a particular Walmart closes (often only to reopen at a new location a few miles away)?
2a.  If yes, is the drop greater than the boost?

Dome sweet dome?

Wired points to a recent Toronto Star article about the financial and environmental benefits of dome-style housing:

It’s earthquake-proof, tornado-proof, fireproof, can be buried into a hillside, and it’s impervious to insect and animal attacks.

Cost efficient, easily maintained, earth-friendly and extremely endurable….While typical new homes exceed an EnerGuide rating of 65 to 70 [link], high energy-efficient homes can push over 75, and R2000 houses can exceed 80, an Ottawa dome house hit 88 when constructed in 2006.

According to the article, the main problems with constructing a dome home are the local regulators and lenders suspicious of its current novelty:

[Collin] Cushnie and [Sunny] MacLeod [of the Great Lakes Dome Co.] realize that widespread appeal will only come through acceptance as an alternative to “stick and bricks” construction. In fact, they usually have to coach the local building inspector and mortgage holder for approval.

One common complaint leveled against McMansions is how “tacky” and “ugly” they are.  Given all the benefits of dome housing (environmental and otherwise), it will be interesting to see if domes can overcome similar perceptions and achieve widespread acceptance in the marketplace.

Going rogue

Wired’s Nate Anderson has a great write-up over at Ars Technica of the “Legitimate Sites v. Parasites” hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee today, and it’s not looking good for Internet intermediaries:

[T]he general mood of the hearing was that tough new steps must be taken. As Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked [Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John] Morton during his questioning, “What change in the law would allow you to pursue everyone?”

In his written testimony before the committee (PDF), Kent Walker, Google’s Senior VP and General Counsel noted that such an all-inclusive approach would be impossible and counterproductive:

When it comes to offshore rogue sites, no one should think that imposing additional obligations on search engines, social networks, directories, or bloggers beyond the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] will be a panacea. If the site remains on the web, neither search engines nor social networks nor the numerous other intermediaries through which users post links can prevent Internet users from talking about, linking to, or referencing the existence of the site. These links or references will themselves appear in search results, and will enable users to reach the site. Simply put, search engines are not in a position to censor the entire Internet, deleting every mention of the existence of a site. If a rogue site remains accessible on the Internet, relying on search engines to try to make it “unfindable” is an impossible endeavor. [emphasis added]

I recommend reading Walker’s full comments for a robust defense of why the notice-and-takedown immunity provided by the DMCA is essential for innovation.

Additional coverage by Politico, Techdirt, CNET, TorrentFreak, RIAA Blog