Legislation in Congress aims to curb Web theft of intellectual property while Beijing cracks down on bloggers. Both nations must weigh the cost to creativity that leads to innovation.
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
The Internet is not only one of humanity’s greatest inventions but is itself a tool for creativity. Yet in the world’s two largest economies, China and the United States, government is trying to curb its use.
In Congress, two bills due for a vote soon aim to block Internet piracy of cultural goods such as movies. The legislation serves the interests of the entertainment industry, which loses income in the theft of copyrighted material.
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In China, the Communist Party has tightened its control over the Web even further in hopes of heading off a Chinese Arab Spring. It now requires microbloggers to register their names.
While actions in both countries differ in their motives and goals, they raise a common issue: Can a nation spur innovation and stay competitive if it stifles freedom on the Internet?
The antipiracy bills in the US simply aim to enforce existing laws protecting intellectual property. Such laws attempt to encourage inventors, artists, and others by promising a monopoly in the selling of their ideas. The “patent system ... added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius,” said Abraham Lincoln, the only US president to be awarded a patent.