I don’t link to other articles and blog posts on here enough. I’m trying to do it more. So here’s a piece by Ezra Klein on former Republican Study Committee staffer Derek Khanna and his support for more relaxed intellectual property laws, starting with allowing consumers to legally unlock their cell phones and to create a backup of legally purchased DVDs. In November, Khanna wrote a memo for the RSC on how to reform copyright law. It was filled with great ideas and received widespread praise across the blogosphere. Unfortunately, Republican congressmen immediately faced significant pushback from Big Business, which is very happy with the current restrictive copyright regime. The RSC pulled the memo after a few hours and informed Khanna a few weeks later that he would not be retained at the start of the new Congress. Big Business had won.
There’s a difference between being the party of free markets and the party of existing businesses. Excessively tough copyright law is good for big businesses with large legal departments but bad for new businesses that can’t afford a lawyer. And while Khanna, like many young conservative thinkers, believes in free markets, the Republican Party is heavily funded by big businesses.
If Republicans really were for free markets, they would openly embrace Khanna’s reforms, such as stricter term limits on copyright, expanded fair use and reduced statutory damages. These policy ideas push government policy towards free markets and less regulation. As Khanna writes at the end of his memo, “[c]urrent copyright law does not merely distort some markets – rather it destroys entire markets.”
By ignoring and refuting Khanna’s ideas, Republicans are confirming what many Americans already believe: the GOP is the party of the rich and Big Business. Republicans cannot claim to be in favor of free markets and small government when they oppose such sensible reforms that would reduce government overreach in intellectual property law. It’s hypocritical to claim otherwise. At the same time, this is the perfect opportunity for Republicans to improve their image. Supporting copyright reform would prove to Americans that they are still the party of free markets.
Alas, there have been no sign that the GOP will embrace Khanna’s ideas. As for the young Republican, he’s pushing ahead promoting intellectual property reform and just earned White House support for allowing consumers to unlock their cell phones. That’s a big victory for Khanna, but there is lots more work to be done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll have Republican support in his pursuit of freer markets.