Republicans Going Copyleft?!

The Republican Study Committee  in the House of Representatives has issued an extremely interesting (though rather clumsily written and clumsily titled) Report on “Three Myths About Copyright Law, and Where to Start to Fix it.”  The Report is posted here

Actually, it’s not posted there anymore, having been removed by the RSC itself  . . . But (thanks, Dr. Internet!) you can read it here.  Paul Teller, the Executive Director of the RSC, issued this statement explaining the removal:

We at the RSC take pride in providing informative analysis of major policy issues and pending legislation that accounts for the range of perspectives held by RSC Members and within the conservative community.  Yesterday you received a Policy Brief on copyright law that was published without adequate review within the RSC and failed to meet that standard.  Copyright reform would have far-reaching impacts, so it is incredibly important that it be approached with all facts and viewpoints in hand.  As the RSC’s Executive Director, I apologize and take full responsibility for this oversight.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday….

Paul S. Teller  — Executive Director, U.S. House Republican Study Committee

I have no grounds for believing that this was an RSC ploy to increase readership of the Report.  [Admit it – you’re more likely to read a Policy Brief on Copyright Law (yawn) if it was deemed too hot to handle by those who released it …]

I’m flagging this as an Important Moment for the Internet –  historians of the future, take note.   I’ve been waiting a long time for libertarians and conservatives to wake up to what a stinking mess our copyright law is at the moment – an anti-innovative, speech-abridging mess (for you “libertarians”), and a over-regulated-haven-for-rent-seeking (for the  “conservatives” among you).  [Admittedly, I’ve tried to do more than just wait for this to happen; how better to persuade libertarians and conservatives that copyright law needs a very substantial overhaul than to explain how perversely anti-Jeffersonian our current copyright policy is at the moment?]

The Report is well worth reading.  Current copyright law is “hampering scientific inquiry,” “stifiling the creation of a public library,”discouraging added-value industries,” “penalizing legitimate journalism and oversight,” and “retarding the creation of a robust DJ/Remix industry.”  The Report proposes a series of rather radical — in the Jeffersonian sense — reforms, from dramatically shortening the copyright term (a no-brainer, actually) to expanding fair use and limiting the damages from infringement claims.

Getting these ideas into the Republican mainstream is Phase II of the transformation of Copyright Politics – Phase I was 2011’s withdrawal of the egregious SOPA bill in the face of an unprecedented outpouring of opposition on the Net.  [My summary of all that is here, if you missed it]  Let the arguments begin!  I’m no politician, and politics bores the hell out of me, to be honest.  But if I’m looking for a way to pry young voters away from the Democrats . . . The Dems are beholden, often cravenly so, to Hollywood and Hollywood money and the copyright maximalist position that Hollywood usually espouses.  You’d think some other political party might try to ride this issue further than it has been ridden before.  Just sayin’ .

[Thanks to Eric Goldman, Greg Lastowka, and Blake Reid for the pointers]

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