Matt Jarman: How to constitutionally keep ‘Big Tech’ in check
(Richard Drew | AP file photo) In this March 29, 2018, photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square.
The word “right” is only in the Constitution a single time, specifically that Congress should, “secure for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive Right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
This powerful word, mentioned 10 times in the Declaration of Independence, is reserved to a single, capitalized use in the Constitution — securing exclusive right, so authors and inventors can capitalize on new writings and discoveries.
Since our founders signed this right into law 233 years ago, it has fueled the motivation to discover new technology at lightning speed.
For example, the founders wrote the Constitution with ink and a feather. Today we routinely write with the aid of speech recognition and millions of microprocessors.
Who could possibly want to dilute those exclusive rights granted to inventors for their discoveries? Who could possibly want to hobble the motivations that will drive the innovation of tomorrow?
Big Tech can identify their big competitors, but they can’t name the millions of inventors quietly laboring in the millions of garages around the country.
The last thing Big Tech wants are other brilliant inventors, motivated by a secure constitutional right, to come up with discoveries that progress humankind but potentially shatter the established company’s future.
Today’s tech giants should not persuade lawmakers to protect them against other innovators.
Want more social media competition?
Unfortunately, the rights secured to inventors have been in steady decline.
For example, in 2011, Congress passed legislation that created a new internal board to review existing patents. This new board (called the Patent Trial and Appeal Board) eliminated so many existing patents from the market that the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals described it as “death squads killing property rights
It shouldn’t surprise us that tech companies who lobbied Congress to create these patent killing boards have now become all the more powerful. These tech companies are now coming before Congress to suggest how Congress should regulate them. It seem magnanimous, but in reality their sheer size gives them the resources to better navigate any regulations thrown at them far more deftly then any up-and-coming competitor.
Recently the U.S. Supreme Court got involved. It has taken a case to determine if the judges who are part of the patent trial and appeal board actually have legitimate constitutional authority. Maybe the Supreme Court can reverse some of the damage?
Not only would it put Big Tech in check, but it would also motivate the innovation of tomorrow; innovation which we can secure — albeit scarcely imagine.
Matt Jarman, Salt Lake City, is the inventor of the ClearPlay video streaming service.