Trevor Burrus and Meggan DeWitt for the Cato Institute:
In 2013, Defense Distributed uploaded computer-aided design (CAD) files and made them freely available to the public. With the proper equipment and knowledge, someone could use the CAD files to create a 3D-printed gun. The government quickly ordered the files removed (under threat of severe penalties) because it determined that the files ran afoul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which prevent people from communicating to foreign persons "technical data" about constructing certain arms...
There are many manuals and documents out there that tell people how to make dangerous things. The Anarchist Cookbook is perhaps the most famous. Many people are surprised that the government lets The Anarchist Cookbook exist, but it is not the government that lets it exist — they'd probably rather it didn't — it's the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects communication about making dangerous things, from bombs to napalm, and it certainly protects communication on how to fix guns or even construct them from scratch. If the government is going to restrict such information it must do so narrowly and with good reason, while understanding that there is a difference between instructions for a plutonium trigger for a hydrogen bomb and CAD files for a plastic, one-shot pistol. And if the government goes too far, people should be allowed to challenge it. ...
While some people are frightened by the prospect of 3D-printed guns — including, perhaps, some of the judges in the lower courts here — that is no reason to allow the government to shut down speech about such guns without ensuring that the restrictions comport with the strictures of the First Amendment. Even if you don't like guns, this case should concern you because the government should not be allowed to say "national security" in order to shut down speech it doesn't like — "first they came for the guns, and I didn't speak up because I didn't own guns; then they came for the…"
Charles Hughes for E21:
Niantic's Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) app that integrates the digital and physical worlds to allow users to see and catch Pokémon, quickly became a global phenomenon when it was released last summer. It soon became the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, on the path to reaching more than 75 million total installations within three weeks. To date, Pokémon GO is AR's biggest success story and most notable app, but it has not been all fun and games.
The craze has faded to some extent, but it remains one of the most popular mobile games with about 65 million monthly active users.
Park officials in Milwaukee County worried about the app's "unanticipated and negative consequences," such as littering, noncompliance with park hours, and logistical issues from heightened numbers of people visiting the park in their quest to "catch ‘em all," as aficionados say. Officials presented these concerns in a report in September 2016, when the Pokémon GO frenzy was still in full swing.
In February 2017, the county passed an amendment forbidding all location-based augmented reality apps from the parks unless they obtained a permit. ...
Requiring AR app developers to acquire a permit reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how these applications work. Once a person downloads Pokémon Go, for example, they determine when and where to play it. The developer does not host regular events or dictate terms to users. Developers would be unable to forecast the amount of users coming to the park on a given day.
If other municipalities followed Milwaukee County's lead, developers such as Candy Labs would be unable to wade through the web of required permits, and would likely be unable to ever bring their app to market.
Officials worried about adverse downstream effects of augmented reality apps, such as littering or using public parks off-hours, should increase enforcement or penalties against those effects themselves. They should not regulate augmented reality app developers under outdated or ill-fitting frameworks.
Dean Baker for the Center on Economic and Policy Research:
[P]atent or copyright monopoly can be thought as being like a privately imposed tax. If a drug company like Gilead Sciences can charge $84,000 for a Sovaldi, when the free market price would be something like $300, it has the same effect on the public as if the government imposed a tax of 28,000 percent on Sovaldi. It is the same amount of money out of people's pockets. ...
This obvious point is missing from almost all the whining about the debt and deficit... The additional costs the public pays for items as a result of granting patent and copyright monopolies are never mentioned as burdens imposed on future generations. Somehow, we are not supposed to be concerned about making our kids pay huge amounts of money to Pfizer and Microsoft, it's only a burden when the money has to be paid to the government.
That might fly as cheap political rhetoric, but it doesn't make sense. And the people who talk about debts and deficits without mentioning patent monopolies deserve only ridicule, they should not be taken seriously.
Compiled by Joseph Lawler from reports published by the various think tanks.