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November 20, 2012

Copyright and the GOP

 

Republicans have historically been strong supporters of copyright protections—and not because of big money special interests, because most of Hollywood's and the recording industry's political money flows in the other direction.

Rather, it's because, as a property right, copyright is a critical element within the GOP's market-orientation. Markets simply don't work without property rights. You can't have contracts, or licensing, if you don't have clear and enforceable property rights. ALL business models, not just "new" business models, rest on property rights.

Further, because the GOP believes in innovation, copyright is a natural fit, because copyright incentivizes and encourages the creation, distribution and promotion of new information. The alternative to copyright isn't free information, but less creation, less widely distributed and marketed.

That's why it was jaw dropping to see a paper appear on the Republican Study Committee (RSC) website that was infused with much of the rhetoric and many of the assumptions of the CopyLeft movement. When an RSC paper is praised on the Daily Kos website, you have to wonder what's going on.

IPI shared our concerns with the RSC, and we were gratified to learn a few hours later that the paper had been retracted. We were told it had not gone through normal vetting and approval processes and was inappropriately published. It appears that the paper reflected the views of a single RSC staffer, rather than the careful thinking and informed perspectives of Republican thought leaders.

This explanation makes sense. Not only was the paper contrary to the position of the vast majority of RSC members, it was also written in a very casual style that is not typical of finished and vetted policy papers.

In the Information Age, copyright and patents have become focal points of much criticism.  And it is both appropriate and necessary to review current laws and standards to ensure they reflect changes in the marketplace and in technology. Accordingly, the Copyright Office regularly releases new exceptions to copyright that reflect those changes. (PDF)

Republican supporters of copyright argue neither that the status quo is somehow sacred, nor that changes in copyright law are not occasionally warranted. But we recognize that our tradition of copyright protection, going all the way back to the Constitution, has been an engine of economic growth, facilitating the development of American industries where the U.S. is globally dominant and a net exporter to the world, and responsible for millions of high-paying jobs.

Multiple academic studies have demonstrated that intellectual property rights actually matter quite a lot to the economic health of a nation, and that means everyone should appreciate the importance of a robust copyright system, regardless of political party.


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