The House Republican Caucus under the title of the Republican Study Committee recently released a document railing against current copyright law, debunking myths, and promoting reform.
The document is incredibly clear-eyed, rational, and reality-based for a party that’s been anything but in recent years. It makes some sense that this would be a place for Republicans to begin their evolution into a party that’s actually in line with the 21st Century. It speaks to their core values of laissez faire capitalism and small government while appealing to a younger generation enthralled by internet and remix culture that Republicans desperately need to start making inroads with if they don’t want to become a minority for an entire generation.
It’s also an issue where Democrats are out of sync with their core constituencies and can’t get in line with them. They are beholden to Hollywood money that has an interest in keeping copyright law as it is and is constantly seeking to expand it. It would behoove the Republicans to exploit the gap between the money in the Democratic party and its rank and file.
Current copyright law is completely out of control. It is stifling creativity and innovation. Things finally hit a tipping point with SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) last year. The Internet revolted and forced the bill to be abandoned.
It was a momentous occasion as it marked a new high watermark for the internet’s political influence and internet advocacy, but it also was the first victory in a long time against copyright law. It also showed that there is a real and tangible opposition to strong copyright laws, perhaps built upon festering wound inflicted by years and years of record companies suing anyone who had ever downloaded a song (and even many who hadn’t) for absurd amounts of money.
So, this new document represents an opportunity for the Republican party to not only deliver on something that should align with their core values, but also attempt to create new Republicans (perhaps bringing some of Ron Paul’s fans inside the tent).
The document lays out the truth about copyright. That it’s purpose is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” that it provides content producers with a government guaranteed monopoly, and is hampering artistic expression and scientific inquiry in its current state. It’s stunning to see a treatise on why the US is behind the rest of the world in the DJ/remix industry in a document out of the Republican Caucus in the House (also, promoting science).
It then goes on to offer practical reforms and solutions: statutory damages reform, expanding fair use, punishing false copyright claims (which are often used to bully or censor), and limit the terms of copyright while creating incentives for letting a property become public domain.
This is the first salvo against the copyright status quo and it’s a doozy. Will anyone pick it up and run with it? I doubt it. But there’s plenty of incentive for Republicans to do so.
Read the document for yourself:
**UPDATE** The Republican Study Committee has taken down the brief and completely disowned it. So, can Republicans become the party of copyright reform? No, apparently they can’t.