Revolving Door: US Copyright Office General Counsel Becomes IFPI Lobbyist

from the system-failure dept

We've pointed out over and over again that the revolving door between the government and the big copyright maximalists represents a broken system -- and we're seeing it yet again. David Carson, the long time General Counsel of the US Copyright Office has announced that he's leaving that job... to become head of global legal policy for the IFPI (the international version of the RIAA). His role will be to "coordinate the recorded music industry's legal policy strategy worldwide." Think he'll have undue influence with the US Copyright Office? He's only been in General Counsel of the US Copyright Office for 15 years. Of course, the IP-Watch story linked above shows how the revolving door works both ways. In effect, Carson is replacing Shira Perlmutter, who left the IFPI role earlier this year... to become the chief policy advisor on IP issues for the US Patent and Trademark Office.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    It is said that Chuck Norris slams revolving doors. Seems we need him to properly close this door for good.

     

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      Stuart, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:34am

      Re:

      Except that Chuck Norris is a copyright bitch.
      He no likey the chuck norris facts jokes.

       

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        Gothenem (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, Chuck Norris found the entire thing funny and amusing. He even has selected his own favorite "Chuck Norris Facts".

        Initially, there was some resistance, but after about a year, he embraced it.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So dragged along kicking and screaming, eh?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2012 @ 3:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No need to make it sound worse than it is. Mr. Norris has accepted the jokes without any known resistance. Some were cautiously pessimistic because of his history, but he has several times "approved" of the jokes and he has even encouraged them by selecting his own favourites.
            Maybe he has learned from history, maybe not, but he has definately not kicked and screamed in public.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 1:41pm

      Re:

      Chuck Norris' DNA must be preserved so we can trot out an army of Chuck Norris clones whenever a righteous cause, such as destroying the dark forces of copyright maximalism raises their ugly heads.

       

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    Hollaback, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 10:53am

    I generally agree with most of your posts, but I have to admit, I'm not sure exactly what you expect the "alternative" to the revolving door to be? Should he have to stay with the Copyright Office forever? The government forever? Can someone switch agencies? Can someone never work in private industry if they've worked for the government?

    I'm not arguing with your premise that it looks bad, but I'm not sure what the solution should be.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      I think it's reasonable to say that part of the deal that comes with taking a governmental oversight position is that you are prevented from taking a related job with the companies you oversaw once you leave. Preferably forever, but at least for a significant period of time. 10 years?

      You would be free to work anywhere else, of course.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:08am

        Re: Re:

        I'd say that to take a job in the Government you must be impartial. Ie: you generally should avoid putting a former Exxon Mobil CEO in charge of Govt environmental policies. Also, the 10 year sounds too much. I'd say 8 years so it covers two different Govt administrations. In any case this person should be excluded from policy making, laws and being a judge on cases related for life if he/she takes such a job.

         

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        ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re:

        Believe this may help... Relevant law is 18 USC 207, Conflict of Interest.

        Unfortunately, it does not appear to be enforced except for the lower echelon folks (and it only really applies to folks in the Executive Branch, and not Congress or the Judicial system.)

         

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        bosyber, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:48am

        Re: Re:

        To add to that, here in the Netherlands, "ministers" (sort of secretaries of state) aren't allowed to take a position in which they directly use the knowledge from their previous job after they step down from their post. They do end up at various consulting firms though, but usually sign documents that say they can't work in the same field they were responsible for for a few years.

        High governement officials have similar restrictions, though on a lower level we have had lots of "downsizing" where the work ended up being done by consultants who were the civil servants doing that before said downsizing (for commercial prices paid by local government, of course).

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:07am

      Re:

      Actually, I agree it's sort of a catch 22. On the other side of the fence was Paul Brigner, who went from MPAA technology expert to ISOC and denounced the domain seizures. Although, I'm rather sure this is rare, people still need to get jobs in their field of interest.

      I better question is whether the US Copyright office is excluding any other job applicants that are also qualified?

       

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      Richard (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:40am

      Re:

      I'm not arguing with your premise that it looks bad, but I'm not sure what the solution should be.

      The problem actually arises from the existence of copyright law. Abolish copyright law and the problem goes away.

      The difficulty arises from the nature of laws that establish private monopolies and/or private taxation rights. It is impossible to move from government to a company that benefits from the government in this way without the sdmell of corruption.

       

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        Chosen Reject (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

        Re: Re:

        This particular problem is not arising from copyright law. It exists anytime the government can grant favors to people, corporations, etc. You can see it with the FCC and the Comcast merger. It's called regulatory capture and there are many other examples that have nothing to do with copyright. As bad as copyright is, eliminating it would do little to stop this problem.

         

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          Richard (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 2:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          This particular problem is not arising from copyright law. It exists anytime the government can grant favors to people,

          err copyright law is an example of the government granting favours to people.

           

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            Chosen Reject (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Right, but copyright law is only a specific instance of that. The way I read your comment was that this is a problem unique to copyright law. Did I misunderstand you?

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

      Re:

      There's nothing wrong with him working in an unrelated private industry.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re:

        Or simply reducing the size and power of the government to the point where it's not particularly troublesome for something like this to happen.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 10:41pm

      Re:

      If whistleblowers are going to be legally classified as spies and traitors, then so should regulator/lobbyist double-agents.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:00am

    I think it's reasonable to say that part of the deal that comes with taking a governmental oversight position is that you are prevented from taking a related job with the companies you oversaw once you leave. Preferably forever, but at least for a significant period of time. 10 years?

    You would be free to work anywhere else, of course.


    Then if you were barred from working in your area of expertise, who'd take a government policy job to begin with?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:07am

      Re:

      You wouldn't be barred from working in your area of expertise. You'd be barred from working with particular companies.

      Really, this is even narrower a restriction than the noncompetes that many people sign when they take certain jobs (I'm under one right now!) With those, you are barred from working for any other company that does the same thing as the one you got hired in. People sign them anyway because the restriction still do not prevent you from working in your area of expertise -- only one segment of your area of expertise.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

        Re: Re:

        You haven't spoken to a lawyer about these clauses? As far as I know, it is very problematic with non-specific noncompetes. Last I spoke to a lawyer he said that you should demand a list of who you cannot work for to avoid a legal slam in the face after leaving your current job. The lawyer was of the opinion that if a company couldn't name the top 10 companies they wouldn't want you to work for, the company had bigger problems than a few informations getting leaked... Of course there are very specific clauses in research where it can be ok.

        I do not know enough about the educations you would need for these jobs, so it could easily be unproblematic with noncompetes, but you have to be specific.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh, believe me, I have. I've been on both ends of these noncompetes. There is a bit of a gray area, but generally they are perfectly legal as long as they aren't so restrictive that you are substantially prevented from working in the industry. Typically, this means they have to be specific and of limited duration. How specific and limited it has to be depends on the specifics of the industry.

          The attorney gave you good advice -- and it's advice that applies equally well to any contractual restrictions, not just noncompetes. This is for two reasons: First, a contract is primarily about making sure that everyone is agreeing to the same deal and there are no misunderstandings. Greater specificity means greater clarity. Second, the more specific the terms are, the harder it is for someone to find wiggle room to screw you with.

           

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      Mike42 (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      >Then if you were barred from working in your area of expertise, who'd take a government policy job to begin with?

      You're not supposed to take a government job to "work in you area of expertise" a.k.a. get job experience. You are supposed to take a government job to serve the public good.

      Yes, that's why few people used to take government jobs. What we have now is corruption of the system, plain and simple.

       

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        pixelpusher220 (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re:

        I don't believe working in your area of expertise means you are getting job experience.

        It means you already have experience and skill and knowledge over something and thus are a reasonably good candidate to work in government positions related to said experience, skill and knowledge.

        The problem is you both want experts to be able to accurately decide issues, yet you want people who aren't beholden to the very industry they are regulating. If you're really good at, knowledgeable of and experienced in a particular industry, odds are you already work for them.

        It's a catch 22 that needs regulation to mitigate the downsides while also encouraging some upside.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you're really good at, knowledgeable of and experienced in a particular industry, odds are you already work for them.


          Yes, now, precisely because the system is corrupted. It wasn't always so. And it doesn't have to continue being so. We don't have to put up with institutionalized corruption.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 7:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What about, you can't be a lobbyist for an industry that you used to regulate for x years.

           

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    Hollaback, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Fair enough. So what does "companies you oversaw" mean in this context? I don't think the Copyright Office makes rules like the FDA does (I could be wrong but I think that's true), so it's not like when FDA inspectors go work for Merck or whatever, or like the FCC commissioner going to work for Comcast.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      The copyright office, like any other agency, does make regulations. But in this case, we're talking about the General Counsel -- that's a position that is involved in court cases involving the copyright office. So, "companies oversaw" would translate into "companies involved in cases he was dealing with".

       

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        Hollaback, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re:

        > "companies oversaw" would translate into "companies involved in cases he was dealing with".

        That makes sense. So he was involved in cases that involved IFPI (or I guess its member companies, since it's a trade association).

        Anyone know how to find out what cases he was dealing with to see which IFPI members were involved?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    "Think he'll have undue influence with the US Copyright Office? He's only been in General Counsel of the US Copyright Office for 15 years."

    Undue influence? If anything, I expect him to have a rougher time because they know jackwagons like you will be watching their every move. I don't think it's a plus.

    I am also trying to figure out why you feel that people who specialize in a narrow field should suddenly not be allowed to change jobs. You seem to be all for limiting their rights to work just to satisfy your personal campaign against copyright. That is a real shame, and shows your colors loud and proudly.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:19am

      Re:

      I am also trying to figure out why you feel that people who specialize in a narrow field should suddenly not be allowed to change jobs.


      You're comically overstating the case.

      The logic behind it is obvious and simple: corporations bribe regulators and politicians by offering them cushy jobs when they leave office. That kind of corruption is out of control and needs to stop.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re:

        Like that judge who was formally an RIAA lobbyist. If she wasn't on the take, she'd recuse herself from any copyright-related cases, to prevent even the suggestion of corruption. Instead, she's been handing out controversial rulings that just coincidentally happen to benefit the RIAA.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      Let's ask Chris Dodd if 'jackwagons like us' keep him up nights just to confirm your theory...

       

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    Hollaback, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    >The problem actually arises from the existence of copyright law. Abolish copyright law and the problem goes away.

    Sure, this problem goes away. But don't you think the problem exists in other regulatory spheres as well? Do we also get rid of drug law (FDA), communications law (FCC), securities law (SEC)?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:35pm

      Re:

      Sounds good to me. We could do with less scope creep in our government and it would universally help to curtail problems like this. The problem stems from the power conferred and the constant presumption that 'if we just get the right people' everything will be fine is unfounded.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 7:57pm

        Re: Re:

        I agree, we need fewer laws in general.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2012 @ 8:00pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          but I do think we need an FDA, though our current FDA is beyond corrupt. An FCC OTOH? Although our current FCC is also corrupt I do think we need one for things like emergency broadcasting, gps, etc..., but not for monopolizing spectra into the hands of private entities to be used for commercial purposes/advertising.

           

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    gorehound (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    That good ole Revolving Door just keeps on Revolving and never stops.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 5:10pm

    How else is he supposed to collect his pension for a job well done? They have to put him on the payroll at some point to explain it to the accountants.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2012 @ 2:50pm

    And there is much more ..... We have recently heard of more 'alleged' misuse -abuse in management circles: the latest is in the copyright area of WIPO. See
    http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/08/29/revolving-door-us-copyright-general-counsel-joins-music-indu stry/

    People continue to speak of the fate of the IMR and it being run by a former CISAC legal counsel. This person is also running other Private sector projects and some eyebrows are being raised as to the intent of some of these projects. There is more but we will wit for Reuters to get hold of that news.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/30/us-un-feud-idUSBRE87T0UR20120830

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:12pm

    David Carson was passed over to be Register of Copyrights for no particular good reason. It is natural he seek out this sort of position in lieu of being chief copyright officer of the nation.

     

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