Posted: 21 Nov 2012 10:40 PM PST
About a week ago, a little flurry broke out in a corner of Republican Congressland called the Republican Study Committee. The RSC is a caucus of conservative House members formed in the early 1970s to help keep an eye on the House leadership (who are precluded from membership). One of the more valuable things the RSC does is work on policy briefs, which it hopes will turn into bills the leadership will push to legislation.
Earlier this week, the RSC issued a 9-page policy brief on copyright legislation that said, essentially, currently law was hopelessly broken and proposed four big potential solutions.
- Statutory damages reform — in other words, saving granny the legal headaches
- Expand fair use — set those DJs free!
- Punish false copyright claims
- Heavily limit copyright terms, and create disincentives for renewal
It caused a huge splash in the tech community — articles complementing the report and the Republicans who issued it appeared at Techdirt, Slashdot, Ars Technica, and Boing Boing. Folks who are usually very skeptical of Republicans, especially on tech and intellectual property issues suddenly perked up and wanted to hear more.
Then something happened. The RSC withdrew the report and replaced with an apology that is perhaps best described by the headline in a follow-up article written by the legendary tech guru Cory Doctorow, founder of Boing Boing.
Cowardice: Gutless House Republicans retract copyright paper in less than 24 hours
Ouch. I think you see the huge problem here. In less than a day, Republicans essentially confirmed every fear the tech community had about them, the largest of which is how deeply the party is in the pocket of Big Business, especially Big Hollywood. Whether or not it’s true, that’s the obvious (and probably quite correct) conclusion tens of thousands of tech-savvy people, most of whom are in that coveted “young people” demographic*. Ron Coleman, an attorney who is my go-to guy on anything that involves copyright law, put together a very good timeline of events, including links to all the documents, retractions, and apologies.
The GOP rang a bell impossible to un-ring, then tried their best to dampen the tone and noped no one would notice the mountain of quilts where an impressive bell tower once stood. I honestly don’t know how they can buy back the honest interest they got from the tech community and not seem like a bunch of pandering politicians.
Then again, maybe they can’t look like anything else. There is that possibility.
*Whatever that is. I’m not so enamored with the “young person” conversation going on in the party right now, but that’s a discussion for another time.