Congress Shouldn't Debate Copyright In A Reality-Free Zone

Parker Higgins | Electronic Frontier Foundation | November 20, 2012

Just a few days ago, an unusual thing happened in the halls of Congress: somebody made a case for a copyright policy grounded in reality. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) — an organization that represents more than two-thirds of all GOP Congressmembers — issued a report challenging longstanding copyright myths and offering ideas for potential reforms. Copyright reform advocates were quick to proclaim that the document, authored by RSC policy staffer Derek Khanna, marked a "watershed moment" that suggested rational copyright policy might be possible post-SOPA.

But if the document signaled a moment of clarity, it was a short-lived. Within 24 hours, the RSC had retracted the report, stating that it had been "published without adequate review." It's hard to imagine that the RSC hadn't also been subject to pressure from the legacy content lobby. After all, those same lobbyists seem to have an allergic reaction to evidence-based discussions of what is fundamentally an economic policy.

So what were the controversial opinions that had to be silenced before legislators might seriously debate them? Turns out they weren’t all that controversial. The report simply debunks some of the central tenets of Hollywood's copyright philosophy. For example, the report challenges the suggestion that copyright is intended primarily to compensate the rightsholder and not to benefit the public by pointing to that radical document, the U.S. Constitution (you know, the part that grants Congress the power to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts.")...