Strict Copyright Law Hurts Innovation and Consumers, Republicans Say

The constant expansion of copyright laws and penalties in the US might be facing a radical slowdown soon, as a Republican Party policy brief released on Friday undermines many of the claims made to support such legislation. Among other things it states that today's copyright law is "a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer."

One thing that the recent US election might have implied was that the Republican Party was the party for Big Business.

That’s not always the case though, and more often than not big name ‘artists’ tend towards the more liberal of the two parties and support the Democratic Party.

This has started to show at last, as the party that campaigns on the basis of free-market capitalism has finally recognized that current US copyright law and enforcement hurts both consumers and businisses. It’s done this via a policy brief entitled “Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it“, from the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH4)

The paper identifies three myths and then debunks them, long known to regular TorrentFreak readers.

  • The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content
  • Copyright is free market capitalism at work
  • The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity

These are not popular views in Washington or Hollywood, and can have a negative effect on campaign contributions, the lifeblood for US political careers. Especially since most of the major US media companies support ‘strong copyright’.

Of it all, the most surprising part of the document is the start of page 4, which asks “Can we ever have too much copyright protection?” and answers it with

“Yes. The Federal government has gotten way too big, and our copyright law is a symptom of the expansion in the size and scope of the federal government.”

“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.” [Emphasis theirs]

This is something that’s been pointed out repeatedly, with every dire prediction for new technology causing copyright apocalypse failing to come true, and instead only enhancing the marketplace (such as MP3s and VHS/VCRs) yet it’s a point that’s repeatedly ignored each time the next disruptive technology comes around.

For the “republican Study Committee” to come out and state that Copyright law is in serious need for reform is fairly unexpected, from a party that brought you the DMCA (Rep. Howard Coble R-NC6) Copyright Damages Improvement Act (Rep James Rogan R-CA27 and Rep Coble R-NC6), and the Sonny Bono CTEA (Sen. Hatch R-UT).

Indeed, the problems that the paper identifies are all rooted in those three acts – A lack of accountability for false copyright infringement claims and the limiting of fair use, vastly disproportionate damages, and excessive copyright term lengths.

What prompted this change, we can’t say, but we suspect it has something to do with attempts to goad Vice President Biden – a strong copyright supporter – as well as the Justice Department, which is liberally seeded with ex RIAA lawyers in its top ranks. Not forgetting of course, the MPAA’s Chris Dodd, former Democratic Senator from Connecticut.

It could also be seen as an attempt to gain the support of younger voters who have embraced the Democratic Party, with most young voters going for Obama earlier this month. Having witnessed the success of the Pirate Party in Europe, it can also be suspected that it’s an attempt to undermine the movement in the US (although the US Pirate Party has become somewhat stillborn outside of Florida, Oklahoma and Massachusetts).

Will the Republican Party take this and run with it though? That’s the big question, and one we’ll only know for certain when the 113th Congress gets to work in January 2013

UPDATE:

That didn’t take long. Displease the Media gatekeepers and feel their wrath. The Director has now backed down on the briefing, noting that it would have far reaching impacts and they need more facts.

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