House Republicans release watershed copyright reform paper

Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it (PDF) is a position paper just released by House Republicans, advocating for a raft of eminently sensible reforms to copyright law, including expanding and clarifying fair use; reaffirming that copyright's purpose is to serve the public interest (not to enrich investors); to limit statutory damages for copyright infringement; to punish false copyright claims; and to limit copyright terms.

This is pretty close to the full raft of reforms that progressive types on both sides of the US political spectrum have been pushing for. It'll be interesting to see whether the Dems (who have a much closer relationship to Hollywood and rely on it for funding) are able to muster any support for this.

Mike Masnick's got good analysis of this on TechDirt, and notes that this is a huge shift from the House that, 10 months ago, was ready to pass SOPA.

Update: It took less than 24 hours for the entertainment industry's lobbyists to bully the House Republican Study Committee into retracting its eminently sensible copyright position paper. They did it with a mealy-mouthed apology, claiming the paper "was published without adequate review." Here's a mirror from KEI, and another from the MD Pirate Party.

This document really is a watershed moment. Even if it does not lead to any actual legislation, just the fact that some in Congress are discussing how copyright has gone way too far and even looking at suggestions that focus on what benefits the public the most is a huge step forward from what we've come to expect. In many ways, this is the next logical step after the completion of the SOPA fight. Rather than just fighting bad policy, it's time for Congress to recognize that existing copyright law is bad policy and now is the time to fix it. It comes as a surprise, but kudos to the Republican Study Committee -- and specifically Derek Khanna, the policy staffer who wrote the document -- for stepping up and saying what needed to be said, but which too many in Congress had been afraid to say for fear of how the entertainment industry lobbyists would react.

House Republicans: Copyright Law Destroys Markets; It's Time For Real Reform


      1. Might not be impossible.
        With 6 strikes getting airtime and people looking at this secret corporate system wondering WTF is happening.  Corporations making their own private “legal” system and getting control over people’s internet access on mere accusations does not sit well with people.
        They might own Biden, the copyright czar, the DC courts (Thanks Beryl!), and several posts in the DoJ but if people start yelling for them to do something it will happen.
        When you get media coverage of little old ladies and men who are facing having to take an “education course” because the ISP failed to secure their router when they installed it, and their access to the net is slowed down or blocked… yeah that will go over well.

  1. I wonder how much they mean and how much they are just rattling sabers to get more cash for themselves.

    1. 99% of the time at least, if a politician’s politics means something it is usually incidental to its strategy to grab power.

      Simplest explanation is that they plan to undercut some of the Dems most powerful support.

    1. Of course. I mean it can’t be that a political position actually makes sense. First it looks cute and cuddly, but don’t you ever watch the series? Then it goes horribly wrong somehow and it’s gonna be all teeth and lots of running, there’s always lots of running.

    2. This is desperation.  Not that is shouldn’t be taken advantage of! But the Republicans currently have strong wedges between themselves and now a majority (that is still growing) of Americans.  They’ve lost African Americans and…actually, they’ll never care about that one.  They’re losing women, but to win them back they’d have to sacrifice religious extremists, insecure white men, and now (thanks to Lilly Ledbetter) corporations.  They’re losing Latinos, but to win them back they’d have to reform immigration, which will lose them racist culture warriors, small business owners who rely on depressed wages paid to illegals, and insecure white men.  They’re losing young people, but to win them back they’ll have to change their tune on homosexuals, science and pro-austerity politics, which will cost them religious extremists, racist culture warriors, small business owners who rely on depressed wages, corporations…and insecure men of all races.

      Copyright might win them a small handful of single issue internet voters (I’m not single issue, but, you know, if you have to be it’s not a bad one to pick), and it would only cost them big entertainment companies, which they don’t have anyway.  So, tiny win, no loss, but it’s definitely a sign that someone in the Republican part is thinking long and hard about how to get out of their current predicament, even if to outsiders it mostly looks like a circular poo flinging cluster fuck.

      1. Since it is just a position paper from under-staffers, I doubt there was much political calculation behind it. It is not like actual congressmen are using this as a talking point or anything.

  2. I usually don’t waste time trying to understand American politics, but is this the part where Republicans propose lots of good laws knowing the reelected Democrats will shoot down anything proposed by Republicans?

    1. Republicans control the House, so if they choose to push this, they can pass it. Senate balance on issues involving rights is more mixed, and it’s possible a majority could be obtained. Obama would have a difficult time justifying a veto, as his administration has made noises (but no legislation) on the topic before about stifling innnovation.

      Democrats are, in fact, vastly more beholden to the interests of copyright trolls. I would love it if the Republicans acted like actual conservatives and pulled the government protectionism out of copyright and let more ideas flourish.

    2. That has been the republican strategy for the past few years, and Senate democrats may very well take that path if House republicans pass this. But if it does get through both houses of congress then I’d bet Obama would sign the bill.

    3. That’s a hard question to answer, as most democrat voters will try to assume that their representatives are sane, and there haven’t been quite enough examples of pure partisan asshattery going in that direction to disabuse us of the notion.  It might happen, but really this is just about the first sane thing I’ve heard out of the republican party in over 8 years.
      (off topic, glad I thought to copy my post before clicking ‘post as’, since despite clicking it before I wrote giving me an error to write a post first, it went ahead and lost it.  Seriously, this is dumb. Can the page please just post the comment before reloading to log in or something?)

  3. Credit where credit is due, this looks pretty damn good.  Of course, I doubt that a) it’ll become and stay a part of the platform of the majority of the Republican party, b) the Democrats will allow it to pass if it did, c) that if the Republicans  ever in a position to make it happen that they won’t suddenly change their mind, and/or decide that we still need to be held by treaties, and d) that this spirit of rationality will spread to the rest of the bat$#!+ parts of the Republican platform.  

    But, baby steps.

    Oh, and hey, Canadian conservatives? You’ve got your majority government… could you please copy THIS idea from your US role models?

  4. Part of the design of the House of Reps is to be the swiftest changing part of the gov’t with regular elections. It’s a feature, not a bug, when they change ‘their mind’ so quickly and go from SOPA to this.

    Still has to get past the Senate; designed to be slow.

  5. The public domain is a wonderful place. L. Frank Baum’s OZ characters and story-lines have grown and flourished and evolved into so many fantastic works. Public domain is good for expanding the market of creative works, good for new artists inspired by old, and good for the legacy of deceased creators whose work would otherwise be stunted and obscure.

  6. This sounds like Progressive Republicanism. I thought that animal was dead! And I am glad to see this before the Dems or Obama are pushed by their Hollywood/Big Internet donors. They may not be FOR a SOPA or PIPA, but the modern office-holding Democrat has no backbone, especially Obama. They will weakly cave on such a bill…

    1. Your omniscience could be put to good use in many places. I feel lucky to know now what the future holds.

    2. It used to be that the GOP pushed for smaller government, fewer onerous regulations and was more libertarian in spirit.  The neo-cons and religious fundamentalist groups ruined that.  Perhaps there’s hope.

    1. Romney and Gingrich did a good job with those health care laws.
      Nixon’s EPA was a good idea.
      They were on the right side of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act.

      I’m not helping their case, am I?

    2. They’re always on the right side. It’s just that that is usually the so-wrong-it’s-not-even-wrong side.

  7. I don’t care about party labels. I vote for issues, not parties. Whoever does the right thing, I’m with them.

    1.  I feel the same way.  But until now there has been no functional difference between that policy and being a liberal. 

  8. I am as skeptical and pessimistic as the next when I read that a Republican, or a few of them, propose any legislation that would appear to protect the interests of the average human over those of big corpos. That being said, Big Content has been marching their campaign dollars in lockstep over to the Dems for the last 18+ years and the results have been pretty obvious. *cough* Chris Dodd et al.

    Outside of Mittens, the most oblivious Old Guard senators and campaign planners, Republicans are quickly realizing their party is in its death throws. The anti-brown/black people, anti-women, anti-working/middle class, pro moral overlord, stance has fully run its course. Big Extraction can’t finance these nutter ideas to wins anymore. The evaporation of Rove’s 444 million without a single victory proved that. The desire for self preservation can lead to radical changes. So maybe its time for a change.

    Party positions aren’t fixed, as the history of both have shown us. Forget about where these two parties stood 150 years ago. Who would have thought 20 years ago that Big Finance would contribute to the Democratic Party at a ratio of almost 2 to 1, as it has since 2006. As the newly re-elected President (who I voted for) deliberates over signing, or may have already signed, an Exec. Order that is identical to, or possibly even more aggressive than, legislation that failed to pass both houses after multiple attempts under multiple names; it is just possible that Republicans see an opening.

    If this is how the Republican Party wants to go about reviving itself, then I’m willing to listen, albeit with great skepticism. After all the only thing worse than a two party system is a one party system.

    But then again, the real motivation might just be what it has always been for the Republicans. Do you really think Big Extraction wants a leader, that they perceive as antagonistic to there cause, possessing the power to read every single one of their emails laying out the cover-up of bribery, exploding water lines from fracking, oil rigs leaking/exploding, and the like?

    My question is where and when are we going to see the first Pirate Party candidate elected to a State House? That would seem to be a real start toward long lasting copyright reform.

    1.  This is the first time I’ve heard the phrase “big extraction”.  Perfect.  I’m going to use that.

  9. Having a few House Republican staffers crib talking points from EFF and similar copyfighters is about as significant as having retired GOP politicians and family members not directly involved in the political process voice tepid support for same-sex marriage. Let the RIAA and MPAA throw a few bucks to GOP House members and see how much support they give to this.

    1. Looks like someone more fully bought and paid for, by the name of Paul Teller, decided to pull the report. Too bad.

    2. Download it, mirror it, and circulate it. That someone actually made this report in the first place is enough for now. We are winning and have slowly been for a long time. We just shouldn’t expect the war on copyright to suddenly end in a blitz.

  10. You should probably update this post Cory, as the Committee withdrew the paper, and probably burned the writer on the stake to appease their corporate masters.  Just follow your own link: they have a correction up.

  11. In response to the ‘three myths of copyright’ report being pulled I emailed Paul Teller His is a public address ( and even though it is likely never going to reach his actual eyeballs I feel like sharing. I tried to be polite and to the point. My success… Is debateable, but here it is for public viewing.
    Greetings Mister Teller.I write to you in response to the RCS Policy Brief ”Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it’. To be brief, as your time is valuable and not much can be spared the fact this report was pulled citing ‘not properly vetted’ worries me greatly. I find the proposals in this report agreeable to my sensibilities and even though much would assuredly be changed from Report to Bill it signaled that maybe politicians were listening and paying attention to public sentiment over earlier copyright related bills (Stop Online Piracy Act being high on this list.) At the absolute minimum I hope no harm, either in person or career-wise, has been done to Mister Derek Khanna for having his name appear on this disavowed report.

    There is more I wish to say but any wording used would sound idealistic and likely would be discarded. With that said I support the proposed measures and wish to state that even though the report has been pulled it is being read. It’s measures were met with much celebration by the voting public. Then when the report was pulled and a form letter explanation thrown in it’s place cynicism replaced enthusiasm. It has the feel of a bait and swap. Promise exactly what people have been hoping to hear. Then after less than a day distance from any mention of having ever said anything.It leaves potential voters jaded and unwilling to believe anything they see in the future as genuine.

    With Respect

  12. And then there was the sad time after it was pulled.

    In the meantime enjoy the show…

    Report on copyright pulled until they insert clauses allowing the government to copyright all uteruses (uterii?) giving them the control they have sought over them for so long!

    Report on copyright pulled because they mistakenly published a report not written but a lobbyist and based on fact!

    Report on copyright pulled because they did not blame the out of control copyright being caused by gays being allowed to marry.

    Report on copyright pulled after emergency truckloads of hookers and blow diverted from Hollywood to DC.

  13. And this is what the Republicans don’t get. A threat to liberty is just as dangerous from private parties as from the government. It doesn’t matter if the government suppresses my free speech or the RIAA does. In fact, through DMCA takedowns and the courts, the government helps them.

Comments are closed.