It’s often said that the Republican Party as an institution is generally more pro-business than pro-market, and that implies a host of things; energy subsidies, tax loopholes, and though it often goes unmentioned, strong intellectual property protection.
The pro-IP lobby in Washington is powerful, though perhaps the new presence of the Internet Association, a lobbying group comprised of web companies, could put some counter-pressure on lawmakers.
But from a policy standpoint, in an age when the RIAA sues grannies and innocent parents of torrenting children to intimidate file-sharers, and tech companies waste billions on patent trolling, perhaps it might be time for the GOP to consider a more authentically laissez faire approach.
It appears they are. A Republican Study Committee policy brief released today to members of the House Conservative Caucus and various think tanks lays out “three myths about copyright law” and some ways to go about correcting what many see as a broken system. Derek Khanna, the RSC staffer who authored the paper, acknowledges an important role for intellectual property while also pointing out how badly the current system has gone off track.
The paper also suggests four potential solutions:
- Statutory damages reform — in other words, saving granny the legal headaches
- Expand fair use — set those DJs free!
- Punish false copyright claims
- Heavily limit copyright terms, and create disincentives for renewal
That would be a heck of a start towards making copyright actually incentivize innovation, rather than stifling it, as it most often does today.
It’s great to at least see this issue discussed in a substantive way–complaints about rigid IP protections have until now been limited to folks like Sen. Ron Wyden. Surprise opposition to SOPA excepted, neither party has taken a strong public stance on copyright reform. If the paper suggests a new turn for the GOP on the issue–against the Chamber of Commerce and for Internet companies, DJs, and millions of consumers–that would certainly beat the protectionism of bought-off legislators like Bob Goodlatte (who knew the good people of Roanoke had such a stake in strong IP?). Read the whole thing (it’s only nine pages, and easy to digest) here.
[UPDATE Saturday 4:48 pm]: The RSC has now taken down the brief and disowned it via this memo from Executive Director Paul Teller. Here’s a copy of that:
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