Lobbynomics v. empirical data

Ars Technica points to a UK report asserting that “lobbynomics” rather than empirical data drives much of the intellectual property policy debate:

There are three main practical obstacles to using evidence on the economic impacts of IP…[3] Much of the data needed to develop empirical evidence on copyright and designs is privately held. It enters the public domain chiefly in the form of “evidence” supporting the arguments of lobbyists (“lobbynomics”) rather than as independently verified research conclusions.

My own experience in dissecting IP developments supports this view.  It is surprisingly difficult to find “hard data” about copyright piracy, leaving any “debate” to a shouting match between proponents of bald assertions.

We need better data, and we all need to be more circumspect (and humble) before drawing sweeping conclusions from the little that is available.

Dodd to head MPAA

Despite an explicit pledge to not become a lobbyist, former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd [Wikipedia backgrounder] announced today that he will head the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA):

“I am truly excited about representing the interests of one of the most creative and productive industries in America, not only in Washington but around the world,” said Senator Dodd. “The major motion picture studios consistently produce and distribute the most sought after and enjoyable entertainment on earth. Protecting this great American export will be my highest priority.

“In several important ways, taking this step represents a continuation of my work in the Senate, from advancing the interests of children and families and creating and safeguarding American jobs to the protection of intellectual property and the expansion of international trade,” said Senator Dodd. [emphasis added]

A lot of outlets are covering this story, including tech outlets (like Wired) and political papers (like The Hill).  However, I was particularly intrigued by the juxtaposition of coverage in The Atlantic and The Hollywood Reporter.  The Atlantic wondered exactly how Dodd was qualified for this new job:

It’s a little bit hard to understand how Dodd’s connections throughout Connecticut, Washington, and the banking industry will prepare him for his new role, but perhaps the entertainment industry knows a different Dodd than us financial reporters.

The Hollywood Reporter suggests at least part of the answer:

While Dodd does not have a lot of experience in Hollywood, he is known to have many friends in show business, and has supported the MPAA on key trade, piracy and other issues. He was also author of banking law last year that included a section sought by the MPAA and others to stop plans for a futures market in movies.

I would add Dodd is qualified to head the MPAA because he can deliver what everyone wants when they hire a lobbyist:  something from the government.  Frankly, the content of Dodd’s work during his years in the Senate doesn’t matter; his contacts do.

I guess it was too much to expect “[t]hat Dodd would forgo a trip through Washington’s ‘revolving door'”.  Looks like he’s going to be able to break out his “thick Rolodex” after all.

Update 3/2/2011: TechDirt picked up the story this morning.