Congressional Testimony Statement before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
On August 1, 2013, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on the subject “Innovation in America: The Role of Technology.” In my prepared statement, I explained why well-balanced intellectual property laws inspire technology innovation and social good, and described how our Bookshare initiative models the good that copyright exceptions can create. Here is an excerpt from my written testimony, as originally featured on Benetech's Blog:
You can read the complete text of my congressional testimony statement (PDF format) on Benetech's Blog or watch the video of my oral testimony, below.
We build our work on strong foundations laid down by other people and companies, whether it’s the open source ecosystem of the Internet, or proprietary software or content. We don’t create solutions from scratch: our innovation is adapting existing raw technology to meet the needs of the users in the social sector. We call this building the last “social mile.” We depend on an intellectual property system that works and is friendly to innovation. Concepts like fair use, open source and open content make our work much easier, since they reduce the transaction costs for less lucrative uses of intellectual property. And, we frequently depend on the good will of companies and rights holders to provide us with free or inexpensive access to the assets that they control.
Delivering my statement before the House Committee
on the Judiciary, August 1, 2013
We need balanced intellectual property regimes that allow for socially beneficial applications, while allowing industry to make money. Silicon Valley has gotten very good at figuring out ways to make money while giving away the core product: these approaches have exciting analogs in the social sector. […]
Intellectual property laws, at their best, can encourage technological advances, reward creativity and bring benefits to society. Practical and creative innovators, like Benetech, need space to operate to ensure those benefits reach those people who are often most in need of new solutions, but are often least able to afford them. And new technology and new operational models are needed to do far more good with the same or fewer resources.
To make this possible, we must keep the balance in copyright. We need to defend fair use as a laboratory for creativity. And we can’t use moral panics and wild claims of economic damages to constrain innovation in advance. We have a good track record of figuring out how to make money for stakeholders while helping consumers and society, and we can continue this trend. With the leverage of technology, and the foundation provided by well thought out intellectual property laws—and a lot of common sense—we can inspire economic growth AND social good.
Keep continuing to educate Congress. You and Benetech are making a difference! I would like to be part of your team.
Bernadette M. St. John, J.D.
St. John & Associates International