The Copyright Reform Debate Continues UncensoredDecember 6, 2012
Last month the House Republican Study Committee (RSC)
released (and then retracted 24 hours later) a thought-provoking policy paper
Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It. As the leading
group for conservative policy ideas and discussion in the U.S. House of
Representatives, the RSC could play a critical role in presenting the
conservative arguments for copyright reform.
However, as PK President Gigi Sohn detailed,
it is a sad day when pressure from content industry can stifle a policy discussion
and debate before it even gets started. The RSC Paper was retracted less than 24 hours after
it was released under the explanation that the paper had not had adequate
review and did not reflect all viewpoints. It is not a stretch to believe that the RSC and other
Congressional offices received quick, arm-twisting pressure from content
industry advocates that who agree with the debunked myths in the paper.
Fear not, the discussion on how to reform copyright for the
digital age will not be censored! Tuesday afternoon Public Knowledge hosted a
four-person panel briefing for Congressional staff interested in hearing more
about these reform ideas and wished to discuss them openly.
PK Vice President Sherwin Siy led the almost 90 minute discussion
about the challenges and solutions to extending the rights and benefit of
copyright law to new digital uses, with a personal emphasis on how small
updates to first sale protections can permit uses of digital media that your
average consumer would assume already exist. He was joined by Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Center at
George Mason University School of Law, who led with why copyright protections
are based in conservative and libertarian philosophy. Brito advocated for shorter copyright terms, registration by
rights holders, and a real searchable database of who those rights holders
are. Margot Kaminski from Yale
University participated and argued that there should be bipartisan support for
reform in Congress. Kaminski
raised concerns that efforts by Executive Branch agencies to control
copyright laws through trade
agreements constitute a land grab of Congressional authority. Matt Schreurs of CCIA rounded out the
foursome with boiled down arguments as to how intellectual property protection
are different from traditional property laws.
However we will not edit or censor any of the views
expressed in the briefing. Watch
the full video for yourself.
Last week Rep. Bob Goodlatte was selected by the Republican
caucus to serve as the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee starting
in January. He has said in the
past that he looks forward to welcoming all ideas to the table on copyright
issues. However, as recent as this
morning it was reported
that some GOP members such as Rep. Marsha Blackburn have helped to keep other
members from considering these ideas.
Even the author of the paper has been let go by the RSC. Hearings and other open discussions
will not happen in 2013 unless your representatives hear that this is a
priority for consumers and our economy.
And they must hear it from you the public.
If you agree that Congress should having open hearings and
discussions about how copyright reform can promote innovation and new ideas, contact your
Representatives and Senators and tell them that the Congress needs to
promote copyright reform in 2013.
About Chris Lewis
Christopher Lewis is President and CEO at Public Knowledge. Prior to being elevated to President and CEO, Chris served for as PK's Vice President from 2012 to 2019 where he led the organization's day-to-day advocacy and political strategy on Capitol Hill and at government agencies. During that time he also served as a local elected official, serving two terms on the Alexandria City Public School Board. Chris serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Local Self Reliance and represents Public Knowledge on the Board of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG). Before joining Public Knowledge, Chris worked in the Federal Communications Commission Office of Legislative Affairs, including as its Deputy Director. He is a former U.S. Senate staffer for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and has over 18 years of political organizing and advocacy experience, including serving as Virginia State Director at GenerationEngage, and working as the North Carolina Field Director for Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign and other roles throughout the campaign. Chris graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelors degree in Government and lives in Alexandria, VA where he continues to volunteer and advocate on local civic issues.