It doesn’t strictly fit into the Lawfare domain, but this episode was interesting enough that it seemed worthy of a blog post: The Republican Study Committee (a very conservative caucus within the House GOP) published a policy paper entitled “Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it”. The paper, essentially, called our system of copyright a protection racket for content creators and urged lawmakers to rethink copyright completely. The policy thrust of the memo won immediate praise from tech-heads everywhere, but was roundly condemned by large content creators like the Motion Picture Association of America. Indeed, the condemnation was so great that the RSC withdrew the memo within a day — the copy I’ve linked to above is a bootleg copy.
Why is this of interest to Lawfare readers? One reason is that the alternate solution to copyright violations — the one supported earlier this year by the MPAA and other content creators — might have actually decreased internet security. Here’s something I wrote back in January 2012:
At the heart of the problem is the requirement that, as PIPA puts it, operators of the Internet can be ordered to “take…technically feasible and reasonable measures” to prevent domain names from resolving to their own Internet protocol addresses. The Internet Protocol or IP address is the number string that is the actual address of a website; the domain name is its common text name. Typically, a domain name resolver function translates, for example, a domain name like “heritage.org” into “188.8.131.52.” What PIPA and SOPA say is that operators like Verizon could be ordered by a court to stop that translation function.
In effect, this would have put into law a requirement that ISPs be enabled to do exactly the same thing that malicious actors do — divert internet traffic without the permission of the sender. It was a fundamentally bad idea.
So, its a little depressing to see a creative idea for reforming copyright shot down without even a hearing. Most of the effect here will be in the commercial sector — but it also leaves open the possibility that some solutions might actually be cures worse than the disease.