We've discussed recently some of the basic conflicts
between the First Amendment and copyright law. The First Amendment, of course, bars Congress from making any law that restricts the freedom of speech, and copyright law does, in many ways, restrict the use of speech. I'm going to have much more to say on this issue shortly, but Michael Scott
recently pointed us to a related issue, about how the ongoing attempts of the US to push China into implementing stricter copyright law, which may actually aid the Chinese government in stamping out political dissent
(something that the US also claims it's against). The article discusses how western nations have often explained away the conflict between copyright and free speech: a clear distinction between idea and expression (though, many question this) and a strong fair use defense. However, the article points out that the way China is looking at copyright laws, these don't appear to be much of a factor. Now, the Chinese government
certainly doesn't care, as they've never been big advocates of free speech. But, for the US, policymakers should be aware that in pushing for stronger copyright enforcement, they may be handing the gov't a tool to crack down on dissent and free speech.