Wednesday, October 12, 2011 5:10 am | By Kelsey Zahourek
The jobs issue is, rightly so, on the minds of nearly everyone in Washington these days. With the defeat of the President’s so-called “jobs bill” in the Senate, the White House vowed to push forward measures one-by-one that would be job creators. One area to begin is by looking at the impact of burdensome federal regulations on the economy and jobs and immediately seek to reform or eliminate the vast majority.
Earlier this week, the Property Rights Alliance wrote about abuses that occur under the Endangered Species Act. The piece highlighted how expansion of ESA regulations has cost cattle ranchers, farmers, and businesses their livelihoods and countless jobs. The timber industry in the Pacific Northwest was nearly wiped out due to the spotted owl being placed on the list. My colleague, Christopher Prandoni has written about how proposed regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy, infrastructure, and technology industries.
Another out of control regulation is the little known Lacey Act, originally passed in 1900 to regulate the trade of wildlife and expanded in 2008 to curb illegal logging. Under the Act, if the U.S. government interprets that a foreign law, concerning the exportation of wood or wildlife, has been broken it is up to the U.S. government to conduct raids and confiscate said products.
The Heritage Foundation recently wrote about overly broad criminal prosecution under the Lacey Act. Heritage cites an example where a small business owner spent six and a half years in confinement because he used plastic instead of cardboard to wrap fish, which federal prosecutors determined violated Honduran law. (The Honduran government said otherwise).
The most recent case that brought problems with the Lacey Act into the fore was the August 24 raid on Gibson Guitar’s Nashville and Memphis factories by armed federal agents. The Department of Justice seized 10,000 fingerboards, 700 guitar necks and 80 guitars as part of an investigation into whether the company had illegally imported ebony from India. All told, this raid has cost Gibson over $1 million and charges have yet to be brought against the company.
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The Use and Abuse of the Endangered Species Act
Monday, October 10, 2011 11:35 am | By J. Michael Wahlen
The United States has a long history of working to protect species from extinction. In 1939, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) was created for this purpose, and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed to augment its power. Protecting species naturally puts the government at odds with landowners, however. The ESA effectively allows the government to determine how land can be used, even if it is on private land. As current estimates put the percentage of endangered species on private land at 90%, this conflict is somewhat inevitable. This became evident even as far back as 1978, when the American Farm Bureau voiced concerns that the ESA would give the federal government the ability to prefer the health of a species over the livelihood of a citizen.
One example of this occurred in 1990, when the spotted owl was listed as an endangered species. The government argued that the timber industry was killing its natural habitat, wiping out the species. After its listing, U.S. timber industry revenues decreased by nearly 90%, putting many out of business. Further researched revealed that the timber industry was not at fault; the real issue was the barred owl, who was eating all of the spotted owl’s natural food. Nonetheless, the damage to the timber industry remained.
Obama has recently paved the way for many similar abuses of the ESA by forcing the USFWS to list many new species under the ESA in the name of “clearing the backlog of cases.” Beginning in 2000, environmental groups began to flood the USFWS with requests for new additions to the ESA. Groups like the WildEarth Guardians have filed for over 1,230 plants and animals to be added to the list since 2007. Obama has agreed to analyze each and every request beginning in May of 2011.
IP, Jobs, and the Economy
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:37 am | By Kelsey Zahourek
Since its introduction in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act has stirred passionate reactions from both sides of the debate, and as soon as the House version is introduced, no doubt those debates will be rehashed. No matter what you think of legislation to go after rogue websites, let’s not forget intellectual property is a vital part of the economy and benefits society as a whole.
The proliferation of rogue websites has affected nearly every sector of our economy, from pharmaceuticals to software to manufacturing. These industries employ millions of Americans and at a time of record unemployment, we can’t afford to be putting these jobs at risk. Additionally, intellectual property industries contribute more than a third of the growth achieved by U.S. private industry, and if protections are not upheld and respected, there is less incentive for technological exploration and no catalyst for economic growth.
Its been said often but the narrative holds true, its next to impossible to compete with free. Websites that ignore IP rights undermine incentives to create cutting edge innovations, the next life-saving drugs, or new business models that make it easier to access content online.
Industries have made great strides in coming together to fight against online theft. The creation of the Copyright Alert System and efforts by companies to go after illegal online pharmacies, I believe, will yield positive results and will minimize the need for government intervention.
Not surprisingly, the protection of IP has long been a bipartisan issue because lawmakers understand what’s at stake. The problem of rogue websites is not going away anytime soon and I look forward to the continued debate on what role the government should take to defend creators’ rights. In the end, intellectual property is a constitutional right and deserves to be respected and protected, no matter what your political affiliation may be.