National Harbor–Here’s a CPAC pro tip: If the title of a panel, speech, or event is phrased as a question, don’t be too disappointed when you find out it’s stacked to suggest a certain answer, a token dissident or two notwithstanding. Especially in foreign policy:
“Too Many American Wars? Should We Fight Anywhere and Can We Afford It?” — No, not quite enough, actually, and “we must afford it.”
“Can We Cut Defense Spending and Still Protect America?” — Probably not.
“Could a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment Save America From Congress?” — Of course it could! What could possibly go wrong?
“Has Atlas Shrugged?”
Though there’s some evidence to suggest conservatives are warming up to the notion of copyright reform, well:
“Internet Freedom and Intellectual Property Protection: What is the Conservative View and Why?”
Where do you think the panelists came down?
The conversation predictably revolved around the vast threat to property rights posed by internet piracy. Phil Kerpen gave a short exposition of John Locke’s view of copyright in relation to the Constitution–the hybrid view made best by Adam Mosoff that the copyright clause implicitly recognizes a natural right to profit from one’s intellectual labor. Seton Motley, a fairly well-known activist who writes op-eds various places and blog posts for Breitbart, spent five minutes listing IP lawsuits against Google in an effort to insinuate they’re behind efforts to weaken copyright. He also characterized IP opponents as “liars” and “thieves.”
The opposing view was supposed to be represented by Markham Erickson, an attorney for the Internet Association, but he didn’t show up, so Derek Khanna took his place (Dave Weigel also followed him around yesterday).
Except for Kerpen, who briefly mentioned the due process concerns with SOPA, no other conservative criticisms of today’s copyright system were aired by anyone but Khanna, who focused his remarks on the DMCA and the arbitrary power it grants to the librarian of congress. Since IP is a complicated issue and the panel was comprised of activists and political operatives rather than experts–a common problem at CPAC–perhaps that’s understandable.
During the Q&A I tried to get them to address fair use, orphan works, and the due process question a little more because the DMCA, which is actually on the books, also has problems. Kerpen said the due process point was “well taken” but didn’t address anything else.
If this is how the conservative movement thinks about intellectual property issues, they’ll miss a big opportunity. It’s a problem that many of them, Kerpen and Motley here, see perpetual crisis over anything; piracy, pending debt collapse, or Benghazi, as preferable to coming up with ways to make government work better or do less. There are plenty of reforms consistent with conservative principles that could modernize the copyright system and go a long way toward reaching the young and tech-savvy. At CPAC, it seems like nobody wants to talk about them.