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Last month the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) released (and then retracted 24 hours later) a thought-provoking policy paper entitled Three 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 The RSC Paper was retracted less than 24 hours after it was released under the explanation that the paper had not had adequate review and did not reflect all viewpoints.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.