December 10, 2012

The GOP’s only innovative member fired over copyright memo


Derek Khanna

You may remember the groundbreaking copyright memo the Republican Study Committee (RSC) released last month. The one full of realistic and well-thought suggestions for reforming the United States’ woefully inadequate copyright system.

That paper was written by a young Republican Study Committee staffer, Derek Khanna. Now, according to Timothy B. Lee on ArsTechnica, Khanna has been fired from the RSC.

The paper suggested all manner of practical reforms, such as limitations on statutory damages, expanding fair use, and limiting copyright terms, which of course was too much for the powerful entertainment lobby. The memo was disowned within twenty-four hours of its release, after lobbyists hit the phones to Republican congressmen.

Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner writes,

“This paper upset some powerful interests. By Saturday afternoon, the RSC had pulled the memo from its website and officially retracted it. The reason, according to two Republicans within the RSC: angry objections from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville, Tenn. In winning a fifth term earlier in the month, Blackburn received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Blackburn’s office did not return calls seeking comment.”

Lee writes that the incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise, was approached by a number of Republican members of Congress, asking that Khanna be fired, and Scalise agreed to their request.

Not to get into political issues outside of copyright, but for a party as lost in the woods as Republicans seem to be at the moment, copyright reform could have been an effective way to attract younger voters. As Lee says,

“His firing is a surprising move for a party that has been looking for ways to attract younger voters. Copyright reform enjoys broad popularity among Internet-savvy young people, and taking up the cause could have attracted the support of thousands of youthful redditors. But evidently, Hollywood’s lobbying muscle was too powerful for the Republican leadership to resist.”

Here’s hoping Khanna doesn’t let his party’s capitulation stop him from lobbying for reform. I’m sure he can find support from almost every tech journalist on the internet.




Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.