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The Debate over Copyright Reform Cannot Be Censored

November 19, 2012 , , , ,

This past Friday, the House Republican
Study Committee released a policy brief entitled Three Myths About Copyright
Law and Where to Start to Fix it. 
The
brief, examines three common content
industry assertions about the benefits of copyright, and concludes that rather
than promoting productivity and innovation, current copyright law inhibits
them.  The brief then makes a number of suggestions
to reform the system, including reducing statutory damages, expanding fair use,
punishing copyright abuse and shortening copyright terms significantly.

Those of us who for well over a
decade have been pushing to have anyone beyond a handful of legislators
recognize that copyright is too long and too strong and badly in need of reform
were elated.  Finally, an influential
Congressional committee was giving serious recognition to many of the arguments
we’ve been making! 

But that joy was very short
lived.  Less than 24 hours after the
brief was released, the brief was taken down from the RSC’s website. RSC
Executive Director Paul Teller sent an email that said that the brief “was published without adequate review
within the RSC”.   The email said further “copyright
reform would have far-reaching impacts, so it is incredibly important that it
be approached with all facts and viewpoints in hand.”

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.  Witness Representative Issa’s proposal that
would allow people to rip the digital media they own to the devices they
own.  Or Rep. Lofgren’s effort today to
use Reddit to crowd-source legislation that would give greater due process protections to owners of seized websites.  And of course Public Knowledge has our own
list of reforms.  And this is happening
even before the 113th Congress has started.

If you are as outraged as we are about the content industry’s
attempt to censor the debate over copyright reform, please call your
Representatives and Senators
and tell them that reform is important to
you.  Then tell us who you called and what they said – it will help us push the copyright reform agenda forward in the new Congress