Republicans Seen as Shifting on Copyright Policy

Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 07:07 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Republicans may be shifting away from their traditional support of Hollywood as it battles Silicon Valley in trying to influence how the Congress updates the country's copyright laws, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The battle over the use of intellectual property — including images, as well as how to apply anti-piracy laws — is being hashed out as a new copyright policy is developed.

Hollywood's interest is in halting the online theft of its movies. Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., said there has been a troubling "shift in public discourse about copyright away from the people who actually devote their talent to create works for the benefit of society."

He said, "Free speech does not mean free stuff."

The 2011 Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was defeated over Hollywood's objections, may have pushed more Republicans to side with the Internet over Hollywood.

Derek Khanna, a former staffer with the House Republican Study Committee and a free market advocate, wrote a critical report in 2012, arguing that copyright policies backed by Hollywood were little more than a form of welfare for big business.

Khanna, now a fellow at Yale Law School, has pushed conservatives and Republican lawmakers to rethink their stance on copyrights.

"Historically, copyright has been short, a government-implemented property right created by statute that lasted only for 'limited times' – as the Constitution requires," Khanna argues.

The Founders wanted copyrights to be of limited duration. And until 1976, the average copyright term was 32.2 years, according to Khanna.

Americans for Tax Reform once sided with Hollywood on anti-piracy issues and was the recipient of financial backing from the motion picture industry. The group has now switched sides and supports the Silicon Valley position and is backed by a new donor, Google, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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