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The Astonishing Cravenness of the RSC

On Friday this blog broke the news of a paper being circulated by the Republican Study Committee, the House’s conservative caucus. Authored by staffer Derek Khanna, it laid out the case for copyright reform in stark terms that seemed to mark an honest effort on the part of the party to at least consider the failings of the current system.

Within a day the paper was pulled from the Internet by the RSC and an apology was issued, claiming it was “published without adequate review.” But the notion that the paper just showed up on the website of the Republican Study Committee without approval is absurd. Far more likely, as Mike Masnick points out, is that the RIAA and MPAA had a morning full of very stern phone calls to staffers and legislators, and the RSC folded.

Keep in mind that this is just a working document that didn’t indicate any kind of formal change in policy from the GOP. Taking it down is tantamount to saying these ideas don’t even deserve discussion.

Mr. Khanna has probably been instructed by his superiors to keep quiet about the incident. But he responded on a Reddit thread about the paper prior to it being taken down, providing some vital context:

I wrote this memo intending to start a much broader conversation, so I am the first to admit that it is a work in progress. It will take work to come to a sensible copyright system in this country, and I hope that putting this idea on the board will start a much longer conversation by recognizing that copyright is a goldilocks-like balance. And in answer to one persons post, patent reform is also absolutely vital — real patent reform.

No one requested it. I just thought it was a good idea. I freely acknowledge that the “solutions” are imperfect. In fact they weren’t in an earlier version at all, but I thought it better to put some tangible ideas on the board as to what I actually meant. It’s one thing to talk about problems and another to start to identify solutions. And then even another battle to get it into legislative text.

The RSC’s attempt to shut this all down appears to have failed; copies of the paper are now widely available. In several comment sections in stories about it, commenters wrote that such a policy shift would be reason enough to vote for the GOP, and that if the paper had signaled a change in policy the party would be on the right track to deserve to govern again. Even if that’s an exaggeration, this is an issue that young voters find increasingly important, and the RSC’s unwillingness to even entertain discussion won’t look good to them.

On a broader level, a GOP that’s serious about Tim Carney-esque free-market populism would have to address IP reform, which nearly always works to the benefit of entrenched market interests at the expense of new entrants. Jerry Brito has even gone so far as to make the comparison between copyright and Solyndra.


about the author

Arthur Bloom is editor of The American Conservative online. He was previously deputy editor of the Daily Caller and a columnist for the Catholic Herald. He holds masters degrees in urban planning and American studies from the University of Kansas. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Spectator (UK), The Guardian, Quillette, The American Spectator, Modern Age, and Tiny Mix Tapes.

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