Rep. Marsha Blackburn's Staffer Lashes Out At Derek Khanna And RSC Report

from the can't-deal-with-reality dept

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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Comments on “Rep. Marsha Blackburn's Staffer Lashes Out At Derek Khanna And RSC Report”

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72 Comments
Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

“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.” — So sayeth the Minister to HRM Queen Blackburn, in this puissant year of Our Lord 1812.

This fellow Reynard writes as though he were a penny-dreadful novelist.

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder what would happen if someone had a ‘rant in favour of copyright reform’ to the same magnitude as those that ‘rant’ against it? i also wonder why it is that i have never read ‘a rant in favour of copyright reform’. is it because no one wants to do it? is it because everyone is scared of doing it? is it because all the media openings would immediately be closed because rather than reporting on the truth or simply just reporting, those in charge of the media have to allow only the one-sided view of the scaredy cats in the industries? i suppose it could be that the ones shouting the loudest are doing so out of total fear of change. the trouble is, while that change is desperately needed, if the powers that be cant be convinced in some way to actually commit to the changes, keeping quiet sure isn’t going to help!

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The local electric company has a monopoly on the use of electricity. The only practical way to get it is through the monopoly supplier. There is no real substitute for electricity.

A copyright covers a particular work, generally for education or entertainment.
There are many substitutes for individual works for one to entertain or educate oneself. There’s also the option to borrow from the public library. So in the classic sense of a monopoly: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly) copyright doesn’t fit the definition as copyright is not controlled by a single entity. And if you dispute that by saying “Studio X has control over Film Y”. True, but unlike electricity there are a universe of alternatives to Film Y.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is almost true, you forget that copyright doesn’t need to be an exact copy it just needs to be close enough in the opinion of someone else you boom! you can’t do a lot of things.

Also you can’t backup your own property that you paid for, you can’t open a business with the property that you bought legally fair and square, you can’t show it in public(e.g. churches, picknicks, etc) you can’t even listen in your workplace or else be persecuted by the collection agencies.

There is more and it seems every year the list of don’ts keeps growing.

For all intent and purposes it is a monopoly and it has the same effects of any artificial monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Also you can’t backup your own property that you paid for, you can’t open a business with the property that you bought legally fair and square, you can’t show it in public(e.g. churches, picknicks, etc) you can’t even listen in your workplace or else be persecuted by the collection agencies.

So how do you think broadcasters operate? They license the rights to monetize individual works.

And nothing you said is consistent with any known definition of what constitutes a monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…Exclusive right…

I mean, seriously. MY 6-year-old knows this from the game of the same name, in which the objective is to be the last player standing and thus, have the “monopoly” of the game board.

An exclusive right to do something is a monopoly to do that thing. Copyright is a government-granted monopoly on a particular expression of a work. IF someone adapts it, or transforms it, then that is, in theory, a new monopoly. However, the content companies involved with the MAFIAA think that this is not the case, and have gone to court to prove that this is not, in reality, correct.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And, with the copyright length being life plus 70 years, they are making sure that the work itself and any derivatives that might be made from it are locked up for a long time.

Disney has famously raided the public domain to find material they can use for new copyrighted works. And yet, Steamboat Willie continually gets its copyright protection goal posts moved out indefinitely. They’re taking and not giving back.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Disney has famously raided the public domain to find material they can use for new copyrighted works.

“Raid” is an awfully negative term for something that’s perfectly above-board. That’s what the public domain is there for: for anyone to take from it and do whatever they want. I think it’s even perfectly legitimate to copyright the result, since it’s clearly not just a repackaging of the public domain material but a new creative work.

It’s all the lobbying since then that’s despicable. If they had just allowed their stuff to pass into the public domain like it was supposed to, it would be a perfect example of how copyright is supposed to work. Instead, it’s a perfect example of how broken it is.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While the alternatives to a copyrighted work are more numerous, it is still accurate to call it a monopoly. A monopoly is defined as a single company or entity controlling (almost) the entire market for a single commodity. In addition, it creates barriers to entry that allow the entity to operate without competition. This is exactly what happens when a copyright is granted.

To address your example of electricity, while there are not as many alternatives, there are some… they just tend not to be as convenient, scalable, or practical. One could take themselves off the grid with solar, wind, water, gas, or even steam and still have electricity in the home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

To address your example of electricity, while there are not as many alternatives, there are some… they just tend not to be as convenient, scalable, or practical. One could take themselves off the grid with solar, wind, water, gas, or even steam and still have electricity in the home.

That is even more true in the copyright realm. And the alternatives are more convenient, scalable and practical.

While the alternatives to a copyrighted work are more numerous, it is still accurate to call it a monopoly. A monopoly is defined as a single company or entity controlling (almost) the entire market for a single commodity. In addition, it creates barriers to entry that allow the entity to operate without competition. This is exactly what happens when a copyright is granted.

There is no single company or entity that controls copyright. There are hundreds of thousands of competitors who control copyright on individual works. The barriers to entry are extremely low. Anyone can write a book and with modern technology, recording a song or motion picture are easier than its ever been. Your point about a single commodity is absurd. There is enormous competition for your education and entertainment dollar. Pretending that copyright in any way like the monopoly over electricity is a joke.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think you are missing the point… Copyright is absolutely a monopoly over the individual work. Just because there are more alternatives to the copyrighted work do not make them a direct replacement like moving to a competitor that offers the same product or service. In other words, while Justin Bieber is an alternative to David Bowie, he is by no means a replacement.

Your initial post indicated that there were no alternatives to dealing with the local electrical monopoly, and my response was aimed at helping you understand this was false. While the alternatives are not as numerous, they do exist. In a way, copyright is even more of a monopoly than electricity because in many markets there is an alternative utility provider or reseller. With a copyrighted work there is only the one work which is under the absolute control of a single entity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Lets look at making a video set in a house.
Step 1)
Write a story.
Step 2)
Go over the house and ensure that there are no items that will be caught on camera that are under copyright. This means any pictures on the wall, patterns in carpet or curtains. Also make sure that no trademarks are visible. This may seem excessive, but the cost of proving that the appearance was fair use is too high to risk.
Step 3)
create some new picture to decorate the place. Also put some dummy books in the bookshelf?s just to be safe. Want a glossy magazine on the coffee table, better make it, and the coffee table if the existing one is an easily recognizable design.
Step 3)
Make the Video recording.
Step 4)
Write and create some music to go in the background.
Step 5)
Do the video editing.
Step 6)
Release and hope that you haven’t overlooked anything that a copyright holder or tradmark holder could take exception too.

As demonstrated the risks of offending copyright or trademark holders cause significant work.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Dec 11th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

A copyright covers a particular work, generally for education or entertainment. There are many substitutes for individual works for one to entertain or educate oneself.

There’s your mistake. Copyright may exist in regard to individual works, but it doesn’t regulate works, which are fairly resistant to it. Instead copyright regulates copies, i.e. tangible objects, and certain uses of works, which effectively means control is exercised against people, who also are tangible and thus susceptible.

Copies of a work are commodities; one copy of The Hobbit is more or less interchangeable with another. The copyright is interested in the similar bits — the story — rather than if one is a paperback and another hardback. People might attach special significance to one copy over another, e.g. a manuscript v. a Kindle with the book loaded on it. But that’s not to do with copyright.

Being commodities, in the absence of other regulation, prices of books plummet to about the marginal cost. More expensive editions might appear — I have a few nice complete Shakespeares — but a price conscious reader can also just download the same thing for free.

Copyright interferes with this and imposes monopoly pricing and control over copies that should be commoditized.

Your notion that one work is a substitute for another — the complete Ed Wood is just as good as the complete Shakespeare, right? — is you barking up the wrong tree. They’re not. If they were, what would be the point of creating things?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

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.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The local electric company has a monopoly on the use of electricity.

Sorry – what? Mike says that it absolutely true that it’s a monopoly, and you say it’s “not exactly true” because someone else has a monopoly on a different thing?

What do the two monopolies cancel each other out or something? – Oh look – Microsoft didn’t have an OS monopoly in 1998 because Comcast had a cable monopoly in Philadelphia!

There is no real substitute for electricity.

And this shows that copyright is not a monopoly how, again?

Alex says:

Re: Re:

You are conveniently side-stepping the issue of derivative works.

The whole copyright issue is even uglier than a regular monopoly. Without fair use exceptions, one simply cannot quote parts from someone’s work, or critisize said work, so effectively, a copyright monopoly on a work is a monopoly on any idea that somehow bases off the original work. Now that is like the coal power company forbidding you to generate solar power because they have a monopoly on moving electrons in a wire – an entire new field of activity is forbidden by every single copyrighted work coming into existence. If that is not crazy, I do not know what is.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Wikipedia article isn’t very good.

The Wikipedia article discusses monopolies as they are understood in economic theory. That is what the author suggests, copyright as a classic monopoly with no competition. But it is simply incorrect. That is like decrying Safeway’s monopoly on Safeway-brand canned peaches. True, they have a “monopoly” but it is meaningless. There are plenty of other sources of peaches(movies) and lots of other sources of food (entertainment and education).

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is like decrying Safeway’s monopoly on Safeway-brand canned peaches. True, they have a “monopoly” but it is meaningless.

The monopoly there is on the Safeway brand; you cannot get Safeway brand anything from anywhere else. They absolutely do have a monopoly on that, via trademark. The purpose of trademark is quite different from copyright, but the monopoly aspect is similar.

There are plenty of other sources of peaches(movies) and lots of other sources of food (entertainment and education).

Yes, there are plenty of other things besides what the monopoly covers. That doesn’t make it not a monopoly. Your argument is like saying the electric company’s monopoly on electricity distribution is meaningless, because there are plenty of places where you can buy gasoline.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Is English not your first language?

Maye it please your most Excellent Majestie att the humble suite of the Lordes Spirituall and Temporall and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, That it may be declared and enacted and be it declared and enacted by authoritie of this present Parliament That all Monopolies and all Commissions grauntes licences Charters and lettres Patentes heretofore made or graunted or hereafter to be made or graunted to anie person or persons bodies pollitique or Corporate whatsoever of or for the sole buyinge selling makinge worcking or usinge of anie thing within this Realme or the Dominion of Wales, or of anie other Monopolies?.?.?.?.

????? ???????21 Jac. 1, c.3 ?? (anno Domini 1624)

?

[ Note: variant spelling ?Monapolies? is also attested. ]

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My point is you’re defining terms however it suits you to make your argument. You define a substitute good for a song as any other song, arguing that copyright is not a monopoly. Yet when it comes to the energy we use in our homes you decide to define a substitute good as only electricity, leading to a natural monopoly, rather than any other source of energy, which would mean there’s no monopoly.

In the electricity analogy, electricity isn’t analogous to all songs, it’s analogous to Call Me Maybe. If somebody wants Call Me Maybe, then Hit Me With Your Best Shot is not a substitute good. Whatever record label that is has a monopoly on Call Me Maybe, even though somebody else can distribute Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Missing up classic civics definitions.

It’s not surprising that the same people that confuse terms like conservative, social conservative, and social reactionary might also screw up a term like radical and be completely ignorant of the historical context of political ideas.

Khanna is most accurately describe as a reactionary. So are Republicans in general ironically enough. So the idea that they are trying to shun him is really funny.

The entire Tea Party contingent should be quite comfortable with rolling the calendar back to 1790 here.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is so rare the public gets to see the blatant corruption as so well displayed in this article. Green is black and black is blue to hear the supposed facts as put out for public consumption.

It is long ago high time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction from over protected graft to the real reasons for copyright to exist. Despite the vested interests stance it is not for a guaranteed income, nor an unlimited protection.

Scott (profile) says:

What so-called document

“She does not believe the radical positions espoused in a recent so-called policy paper regarding copyright,” Reynard said.

I wonder if Mike would publish the original document in total, the RSC would claim copyrights. It would be nice to see some acknowledgement that this was a published policy position that just happened to get squashed. It may have been a short lived policy position, but it was at least a viable position for a short time.

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