Ah, Representative Marsha Blackburn. This is the self-styled "limited government" Member of the House of Representatives who famously posted a nearly 100% factually misleading attack on "net neutrality" just shortly before sponsoring SOPA, despite the fact that almost everything she complained about in her mythical version of net neutrality was true of SOPA. For example, she talked about the wonders of the internet (yay!) and sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and talked about how they've been built up entirely without government intervention (ignoring, of course, the government's rather large role in the creation of the internet, but let's leave that aside). And then she states: "There has never been a time that a consumer has needed a federal bureaucrat to intervene (in the world wide web)." And she worries how under the net neutrality she fears "the next Facebook innovator" may "have to go apply with the government to get approval to develop a new application."
Yet, of course, when it comes to SOPA and copyright, she ignores these very same arguments. SOPA itself was very much about federal bureaucrats, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, intervening in how the internet was to work. And, of course, the very nature of copyright these days is that it means that innovators often do have to effectively get "approval" from the government to develop a new product. In fact, the former director of the US Copyright Office, Ralph Oman, recently stated specifically, in the Aereo case, that he believed the intention of copyright law was that new technologies must first get Congressional approval before they can be considered legal -- and this appears to be Blackburn's position as well.
Of course, this blatant contradiction is explained away easily enough, since her district is up against Nashville, Tennessee, a major outpost of the recording industry. Given that, it was no surprise to see it confirmed that she was one of the leading voices among Republican members who led the Republican Study Committee to first retract Derek Khanna's "copyright myths" policy brief, and then to push to make sure that he was not retained as an RSC staffer.
The latest, is that when asked about Blackburn's role in Khanna's employment situation, a Blackburn staffer, Mike Reynard, went off on an ill-informed rant against the policy brief:
"She does not believe the radical positions espoused in a recent so-called policy paper regarding copyright," Reynard said. "Conservatives aren't going to tolerate the ideology that copyright violates nearly every tenant of laissez-faire capitalism, that copyright is a government monopoly, and that property rights don't matter anymore."
"We were concerned that the RSC's Executive Director, Paul Teller, and Congressman Jim Jordan associated themselves with these bizarre ideas and were happy to see them denounce the process and the ideas in the paper after it was published," he added.
So much lies and distortions in two short paragraphs. First of all, the ideas in the paper were hardly "radical." They've been widely discussed for quite some time outside the halls of Congress, but they rarely make it inside, because Blackburns' close friends at the RIAA and MPAA do a bang up job keeping them out. Second, the idea that "conservatives aren't going to tolerate the ideology that copyright violates nearly every tenant of laisez-faire capitalism" is kinda laughable, since an awful lot of conservatives not only "tolerate" the idea, they believe it to be true. In fact, as we've noted, there's an entire new book making the "conservative" case for massive copyright reform (even going beyond Khanna's so-called "radical" suggestions). Furthermore, an awful lot of prominent conservative thinkers have come out in favor of the report. So whether or not Blackburn "tolerates" it, doesn't have much bearing on whether or not "conservatives" tolerate it. It just seems to show that Blackburn may be completely out of touch and out of step with those she claims to represent.
As for the idea that copyright is not a government monopoly -- well, that's just wrong. I mean, there's nothing to argue here. It's a simple fact: a copyright is a monopoly. In the earlier days of the US, the founders even directly referred to them as monopolies. So I'm not even sure how this point is debatable, unless you're entirely ignorant.
Then there's the idea that "property rights don't matter anymore." That's just weird, because no one suggested that at all. In fact, if you actually read Khanna's paper, he argues quite the opposite. Property rights matter a great deal. The problem with copyright is that it's a restriction on people's private property rights.
Finally, while the RSC did retract the report, after heavy pressure from various lobbyists, at no time did they "denounce the process and the ideas in the paper." They simply argued that it did not properly represent the views of all of their members. One assumes this includes Marsha Blackburn, but judging from the comments from her staffer, I would think that the RSC would not wish to associate itself with the pure and blatant ignorance coming out of her office. We can argue the merits of the paper (and, in fact, we've been trying to do that in a series of posts). But to pretend the paper says stuff that it doesn't... and to argue things that are clearly factually 100% false is no way to go about making policy.
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