The Republican Study Committee over the weekend posted and
then took down a copyright policy report that was scathing in its assessment of
current copyright law -- "it destroys entire markets" -- and almost
certainly had folks at the Motion Picture Association of America and others in
the content-creation industry seeing several shades of red.
The committee is made up of conservative Republicans
dedicated to limiting the Federal Government.
A spokesman for the committee said the report was taken down
because it did not reflect a balance of viewpoints on the issue.
According to Public Knowledge, which supplied a link to a
copy of the report, it was posted Nov. 16 and almost immediately taken down.
"On issues where there are several different
perspectives among our members, our Policy Briefs should reflect that,"
said Brian Stressle, communications director for the committee. "This
Policy Brief presented one view among conservatives on U.S. copyright law. Due
to an oversight in our review process, it did not account for the full range of
perspectives among our members. It was removed from the website to address that
Public Knowledge suggested it was more than just an
oversight. "It's amazing how quickly good ideas about copyright law can be
squashed by incumbent interests in the entertainment industry," said Gigi
Sohn, president of Public Knowledge.
An MPAA spokesperson had not returned calls and emails for
comment at presstime, but Stressle maintained that was not the case. "I
know some want to point fingers elsewhere," he said, "but the simple
fact is that we screwed up, we admitted it, and we hope people will now use
this opportunity to engage in polite and serious discussion of copyright
The report, titled, "Three Myths About Copyright Law
and Where to Start to Fix it," identified those myths as being that copyright
was meant to compensate the creators of the content, that it is free market
capitalism in action and that the current copyright regime leads to "the
greatest innovation and productivity."
Sounding more like a paper from fair use fans Public Knowledge
and citing the length of copyright protections -- the life of the author plus
70 years and for corporate copyright, 120 years after creation or 95 years
after publication -- the report ripped into the regime. It brands the system an
overprotective, government-subsidized monopoly that has slowed the creation of
works by DJs and the remix industry, hurt scientific inquiry, "stifled"
the creation of libraries, discouraged new industries that could use public
domain content for "value-added" works and penalized journalists by
protecting incriminating information.
Among its proffered solutions: 1) Reduce the damages for
infringement -- "in a world where everyone copies stuff at home all the
time, the idea that your iPod could make you liable for a billion dollars in
damages is excessive," the report says; 2) expand fair use; 3) punish
false copyright claims; and 4) limit copyright terms and create a disincentive
for renewing them (the paper suggests a 12-year copyright and renewals up to 10
years, but at an escalating price to 10% of all revenue for the 10-year
It seemed an unusual paper to come from a group of
Republican legislators given its harsh criticisms of content creation and
stirring defense of fair use. But it does dovetail more with an extreme
position on limiting the federal government. In addition, the battle over
content protection and piracy that culminated in the defeat of SOPA/PIPA has
not split along party lines, with Northern California reps from both parties
criticizing Hollywood for trying to overprotect content and the expense of
their Internet constituencies.