The Republican Study Committee is a group of conservatives in the House that generally do excellent work. Overall, they’re part of the solution in D.C., not part of the problem.
That being said, it has been embarrassing to watch how they’ve behaved in the debacle that has been their aborted attempt to reform copyright law.
It started out with what was the single most innovative thing to come out of the Republican Study Committee in the last year, a proposal to change copyright law. It was much needed, fresh thinking on an area where the law has been draconian and slanted in favor of large corporations at the expense of the American people. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about some Occupy Movement proposal to make “everything free.” The RSC just wanted to crack down on false copyright claims, make sure grandma wasn’t getting hit with a million dollars in damages for downloading a few songs and insure that copyrights can’t be continued in perpetuity, all of which are common sense reforms. So, what they were suggesting was good policy.
It also turned out to be good politics as well, not just because of the obvious appeal to younger voters, but because tech magazines across the spectrum immediately gave it rave reviews. In other words, it turned out to be a principled way to reach out to a demographic the GOP isn’t strong with.
Unfortunately, after a catastrophic backbone failure, the Republican Study Committee pulled its copyright-reform memo the next day. Personally, I picture a half dozen Republican Congressmen crying piteously in some studio exec’s plush office while they pawed at his sleeve and begged him to keep writing them checks if they’d cave. Now, after their cowardly decision to roll over like whipped dogs, the RSC has tossed another little peace offering to the entertainment industry’s lobbyists.
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, has told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January. The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA) was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset about a memo Khanna wrote advocating reform of copyright law. They asked that Khanna not be retained, and Scalise agreed to their request.
The release and subsequent retraction of Khanna’s memo has made waves in tech policy circles. The document argues that the copyright regime has become too favorable to the interests of copyright holders and does not adequately serve the public interest. It advocates several key reforms, including reducing copyright terms and limiting the draconian “statutory damages” that can reach as high as $150,000 per infringing work.
The memo was widely hailed by tech policy scholars and public interests advocates. However, it raised the ire of content industry lobbyists, who applied pressure on the RSC to retract the memo. The organization did so within 24 hours of its release. Khanna’s firing will only further raise the memo’s profile.
His firing is a surprising move for a party that has been looking for ways to attract younger voters. Copyright reform enjoys broad popularity among Internet-savvy young people, and taking up the cause could have attracted the support of thousands of youthful redditors. But evidently, Hollywood’s lobbying muscle was too powerful for the Republican leadership to resist.
How disagraceful. It looks like when Jim DeMint retires, he will be taking one of the few working sets of Republican testicles on Capitol Hill with him.