A Call for Copyright Reform

Here’s my story from yesterday on the brouhaha over the weekend in D.C., in which the Republican Study Committee posted — and then retracted — a proposal for a series of copyright reforms. The big deal is that it was such a high profile org that seemed to endorse the idea, only a spokesman later said that it was posted by mistake.

Nevertheless, the policy brief, from Derek Khanna, drew plenty of attention in the Capitol, and drew praise today from New York Times columnist David Brooks as the type of thinking that the Republican party needs, and from a fresh voice (Khanna is only 24) that the GOP is seeking in its recovery from the 2012 elections. Indeed, many public interest groups on the so-called “Copy Left,” who have long argued that strict copyright laws stifle innovation, yet are in place because of the power of Big Media, praised the policy brief and predicted that it would open up a new line of debate.

Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn wrote, “One needn’t be a detective to conclude that the retraction had less
to do with the lack of an “adequate review” and balance and more with
entertainment lobbyists coming down on the RSC like a ton of bricks. The defeat of SOPA and PIPA was bad enough –
but a paper that would start serious discussion of bringing balance back to
copyright law so that it once again accomplishes the Constitutional purpose of
“promot[ing] the progress of science and the useful arts”?   That was too much for the industry to
bear.

“The bad news for the movie studios and record companies is that the
discussion about how to make copyright law make sense in a digital age has
already started in Washington, and it will continue, with or without them.”

The Cato Institute is hosting a debate on the topic on Dec. 6, and its speakers include Mitch Glazier of the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

What excites those who have called for reform is that the paper comes from a younger member of the conservative movement and that it has drawn attention a little bit beyond D.C. think tanks. Yet it is a live wire, as legislation to strengthen copyright has enjoyed robust bipartisan support.

Perhaps most controversial of all of Khanna’s proposals is one to limit the copyright term to just 12 years, with additional renewals allowed only if the rights holder pays an increasing percentage of the revenue (it starts at 1% for 12 years, then goes to 3% for another six years, etc.) That is a far cry from the current term, which is the life of the author plus seventy years.

 

 

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