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#1 +M2Ys4U

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 15:44

Right after the Presidential election last week, Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala penned an opinion piece suggesting that one way the Republicans could "reset", and actually attract the youth vote, would be to become the party of copyright reform. We had actually wondered if that was going to happen back during the SOPA fight, when it was the Republicans who bailed on the bill, while most of those who kept supporting it were Democrats. Since then, however, there hadn't been much movement. Until now. Late on Friday, the Republican Study Committee, which is the caucus for the House Republicans, released an amazing document debunking various myths about copyright law and suggesting key reforms.

If you're used to Congress not understanding copyright, prepare to be surprised. It's clear, thorough and detailed about just how problematic copyright has become and why it needs to change. To give you a sense of where the document heads, note the final line:

Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets -- rather it destroys entire markets.


There is a lot in this document, and we can't go through it all, but I highly recommend reading through it. The three "myths" it attacks are:
  • That the purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator. No, it correctly notes, it's about benefiting the public

    Thus, according to the Constitution, the overriding purpose of the copyright system is to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” In today’s terminology we may say that the purpose is to lead to maximum productivity and innovation.This is a major distinction, because most legislative discussions on this topic, particularly during the extension of the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good or what will promote the most productivity and innovation, but rather what the content creators “deserve” or are “entitled to” by virtue of their creation. This lexicon is appropriate in the realm of taxation and sometimes in the realm of trade protection, but it is inappropriate in the realm of patents and copyrights.

  • That copyright is a representation of free market capitalization. The paper properly notes that the reality is the exact opposite:

    Copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism. Under the current system of copyright, producers of content are entitled to a guaranteed, government instituted, government subsidized content-monopoly.

  • That the current copyright regime leads to the greatest level of innovation and productivity. That makes no sense at all, the paper says:

    Today’s legal regime of copyright law is seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and added value. We frankly may have no idea how it actually hurts innovation, because we don’t know what isn’t able to be produced as a result of our current system.

From there, it goes on to look at some of the specific harms of today's copyright law, including harming remix culture and a lot of commercial activity around it, that it "hampers scientific inquiry," discouraging value added industries and others.

Finally, it puts forth suggestions for copyright reform that go way, way, way beyond anything we've seen legitimately discussed in Congress, ever. Below I just show some snippets from the recommendations, so go read the full thing.

  • Statutory Damages Reform:
    Copyright infringement has statutory damages, which most copyright holders can and do use in litigation (rather than having to prove actual damages). The government sets a range – which is $750 to $30,000 per infringement – but that goes up to $150,000 if the infringement is "willful." Evidence suggests that the content holder almost always claims that it is willful. This fine is per infringement. Those rates might have made sense in commercial settings (though even then they arguably seemed high), but 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.
  • Expand Fair Use:
    Right now, it's somewhat arbitrary as to what is legally fair use based upon judicially created categories. One example: parodies are considered protected by fair use but satire is not. There's an excellent book (and a shorter paper) called Infringement Nation that details how things you do every single day are infringing and leave every single person liable for billions in damages each year (http://papers.ssrn.c...ract_id=1029151).
  • Punish false copyright claims:
    Because there is minimal or nearly non-existent punishment for bogus copyright claims today, false takedown requests are common and have a chilling effect upon legitimate speech. While those filing a takedown request have to swear on the threat of perjury, that swearing is only in regard to whether the work is theirs but not whether the work is actually infringing. The court has said that their needs to be “subjective bad faith” in order to be sanctioned for false takedown requests. This often leads to de facto censorship.
  • Heavily limit the terms for copyright, and create disincentives for renewal:
    Current public policy should create a disincentive for companies to continue their copyright indefinitely because of the negative externalities explained in this paper. Unlike many forms of government revenue, generating revenue by disincentivizing activities with negative externalities is one way for the government to pay for its operations. This is a far superior way for the government to generate revenue rather than having a tax system that disincetivizes work.


It goes on to suggest a sliding scale for copyright renewal, after a free initial term of 12 years. The fee for renewal would be a percentage of revenue from the work, and that percentage increases with each additional renewal term. Under such a system, those who are still exploiting the copyright can continue to hold one, but for most, where there is greater benefit to have the work in the public domain, the work goes into the public domain.

This document really is a watershed moment. Even if it does not lead to any actual legislation, just the fact that some in Congress are discussing how copyright has gone way too far and even looking at suggestions that focus on what benefits the public the most is a huge step forward from what we've come to expect. In many ways, this is the next logical step after the completion of the SOPA fight. Rather than just fighting bad policy, it's time for Congress to recognize that existing copyright law is bad policy and now is the time to fix it. It comes as a surprise, but kudos to the Republican Study Committee -- and specifically Derek Khanna, the policy staffer who wrote the document -- for stepping up and saying what needed to be said, but which too many in Congress had been afraid to say for fear of how the entertainment industry lobbyists would react.


Source: TechDirt


#2 Mr Nom Nom's

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:02

Oh Christ not this again - grasping at straws to attract the 'young vote'. The formula is simple; economically free market and socially liberal: take as little from my wallet possible and keep out of my bedroom. Yes the copyright laws need reforming but it seems that the Republicans are looking for some sort of silverbullet rather than genuinely reflecting on what actually transpired on election day.

#3 Co_Co

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:08

Copy rights should protect the people who spent time and money in R&D or created something original so they can be rewarded and inspire people to do the same next time not just do something similar

#4 roadwarrior

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:16

Oh Christ not this again - grasping at straws to attract the 'young vote'. The formula is simple; economically free market and socially liberal: take as little from my wallet possible and keep out of my bedroom. Yes the copyright laws need reforming but it seems that the Republicans are looking for some sort of silverbullet rather than genuinely reflecting on what actually transpired on election day.

How are they not? Obama won by a margin of roughly 3 million votes, many of those young people who might be swayed by a policy change such as this.

Copy rights should protect the people who spent time and money in R&D or created something original so they can be rewarded and inspire people to do the same next time not just do something similar

Except, as noted, that is the exact opposite of the original intent of the copyright laws in place in our constitution. Some how, over the years, "for limited times" has come to be interpreted as "the lifetime of the author + 70 years". Hardly what the framers of the constitution had in mind (the original term was 14 years and an optional 14 year extension)..

#5 Nick H.

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:17

<Thread moved to Domestic Politics>

#6 Anibal P

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:17

So some Republicans are trying to do something that is sorely needed in this Country, and as usual they get no support because they are Republicans and not Democrats, sad really people can't put aside their corrupted party affiliation for the good of all Americans

#7 Luis Mazza

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:18

Copy rights should protect the people who spent time and money in R&D or created something original so they can be rewarded and inspire people to do the same next time not just do something similar


Then there should be a patent or documented information reflecting how much time and effort you put to your state-of-the-art creation, so that the time you have to abuse of your creation is correctly evaluated. And the time should not be too long, as things are fast these days.
That's the opposite of what's going on right now.

It's like... If you made a da-da-da song with three music notes, then you have a very short time to grab some money over it. Copyrights should be given by the difficulty of things, not the amount of money it can grab.

#8 TheExperiment

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:21

So some Republicans are trying to do something that is sorely needed in this Country, and as usual they get no support because they are Republicans and not Democrats, sad really people can't put aside their corrupted party affiliation for the good of all Americans

I would support this. I suspect most Democrats would as well. It being Congress, however, I have no expectation of anything actually happening.

#9 FMH

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:27

Copy rights should protect the people who spent time and money in R&D or created something original so they can be rewarded and inspire people to do the same next time not just do something similar


But it should also protect people who pirate material worth a few dollars, but have to pay a compensation of several hundred thousand dollars.

And such companies also abuse several laws, and have a lot of influence on the authorities. Like in Dot Com case, where FBI made arrests in New Zealand.

#10 Lord Method Man

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 16:38

There's quite a few good ideas that come from the House, but sadly they can never get through the Senate because there's too many old-hat politicians still running it (both parties.)

#11 LaP

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 17:01

the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good or what will promote the most productivity and innovation, but rather what the content creators “deserve” or are “entitled to” by virtue of their creation.


This is even worse these days as often the owner of a copyright is not the creator himself but some big company who bought the right to the art work.

So by buying a music disc or a movie often the money doesn't go in the pocket of the creator (artist) but in the pocket of a big company who bought the right to this work.

How many time a game is made by a small company and then a big publisher comes in at the last minute and buy the right to the game and spend millions in marketing to sell 10 times the number of copies the small company would have sold if it did not sell the right to the game?

So some Republicans are trying to do something that is sorely needed in this Country, and as usual they get no support because they are Republicans and not Democrats, sad really people can't put aside their corrupted party affiliation for the good of all Americans


I'm not american but if i was i would support them even if i'm liberal.

#12 OP +M2Ys4U

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 17:25

<Thread moved to Domestic Politics>


Hmm, I know the thread's about the "house republicans" but I posted it in back page news because, frankly, it has global implications. The US bullies other nations to follow its own domestic intellectual monopoly legislation (cf Wikileaks revelations about Spain's copyright law). Threads of a similar nature have stayed there when they've been from the EU or other European nations.

#13 OP +M2Ys4U

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 17:36

Oh Christ not this again - grasping at straws to attract the 'young vote'. The formula is simple; economically free market and socially liberal: take as little from my wallet possible and keep out of my bedroom. Yes the copyright laws need reforming but it seems that the Republicans are looking for some sort of silverbullet rather than genuinely reflecting on what actually transpired on election day.

Did you even read the post or the policy brief?

"Copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism". If that's not a remark about an "economically free market" I don't know what is.

Except, as noted, that is the exact opposite of the original intent of the copyright laws in place in our constitution. Some how, over the years, "for limited times" has come to be interpreted as "the lifetime of the author + 70 years". Hardly what the framers of the constitution had in mind (the original term was 14 years and an optional 14 year extension)..


US copyright law, when it was drafted, basically imported the very first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, titled "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned" which also had a 14 year term.

It's only relatively recently that copyright has come to mean "I deserve money" rather than "I won't get ripped off by publishers"

#14 Nick H.

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 17:52

Hmm, I know the thread's about the "house republicans" but I posted it in back page news because, frankly, it has global implications. The US bullies other nations to follow its own domestic intellectual monopoly legislation (cf Wikileaks revelations about Spain's copyright law). Threads of a similar nature have stayed there when they've been from the EU or other European nations.

I'm willing to move it back, but for me it is domestic politics rather than involving a company or multiple countries. If you still think it was a wrong decision then let me know, I'm still new at this. ;)

#15 OP +M2Ys4U

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 18:38

I'm willing to move it back, but for me it is domestic politics rather than involving a company or multiple countries. If you still think it was a wrong decision then let me know, I'm still new at this. ;)


Thanks, it's a borderline thread but the story's more of a dry policy briefing (although a watershed one) than an overtly party-political statement :)