Shane Ferro
Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

MARKET WATCH: Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

Is Copyright Reform a Republican Issue? New Report Aims to Expand Fair Use

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Copyright reform appears to be an increasingly partisan issue. The Republican Study Committee released a report on Friday urging changes in copyright policy that would expand the definition of fair use, limit copyright term renewals, ease punishment for those found guilty of infringement, and increase it for those bringing false claims.

The report, “Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It,” was actually removed from the committee’s website the next day after pressure from some of its members — and probably lobbyists — who complained that it didn’t reflect the organization’s range of viewpoints. “On issues where there are several different perspectives among our members, our policy briefs should reflect that,” a spokesman for the committee told Broadcasting & Cable. “[T]he simple fact is that we screwed up.”

Nonetheless, the report raises some interesting points which are not likely to vanish so easily:

The first of the committee’s “three myths” is the misconception that copyright legislation exists to protect what “content creators ‘deserve’ or are ‘entitled to,’” rather than “promote the most productivity and innovation.” The latter is more in line with the constitution’s language on copyright, which it says is designed “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

The second myth is that copyright promotes free-market capitalism. Instead, the authors claim, it increases guarantees, actually the role of government regulation and subsidy in the marketplace, which has led to “laws that allow for massive damages for violations.”

Finally, the committee challenged the argument that copyright protects innovation. “With no copyright protection, it was perceived that there would be insufficient incentive for content producers to create new content,” the report says. On the other hand, too much legislation smothers it, and can lead to something called the “rent-seeking” effect, “which is effectively non-productive behavior that sucks economic productivity and potential from the overall economy.”

— Rachel Corbett

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