There are several forms of intellectual property protected by U.S. law. Among these are patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The goal of all three forms of protection is to encourage hard work through the granting of some economic exclusivity, and thereby helping the nation by growing the economy and through the good works made possible by new inventions. Trademarks reduce ambiguity in marketing and promotion. Copyrights protect artistic and intellectual expression. And patents protect ideas. Of these three categories of intellectual property, the ones recently subject to reform efforts are copyrights and patents, and each of these seems to be headed in a different direction, though for generally the same reason.
Copyright law is being tightened at the behest of big publishers and especially big record and movie companies. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for example, makes it a crime to defeat copy protection of CDs and DVDs, thus helping to preserve the property rights of these companies. At the end of some artistic productivity chain, it is supposed to protect the rest of us, too, most notably by encouraging the record and movie companies to make more records and movies, which we will in turn be discouraged from copying illegally.
Patent reform works the other way. Where we are tightening copyrights to help big companies, we are loosening patents, also to help big companies. Certainly it isn’t to help you or me.