Conservatives support constitutional copyright

In the words of Ronald Reagan, “there you go again…”

Timothy Lee supported SOPA/PIPA and tried to make that bill that would have killed innovation, been ineffective and counterproductive seem conservative. In his recent Daily Caller piece, he is at it again on behalf of Hollywood.

For generations, Hollywood and the recording industry have gotten their way in Washington so easily and so often, they have forgotten how to engage in reasoned argument. As a case in point, see Tim Lee resorting to mischaracterizing my words, grossly misinterpreting the Federalist papers, and misreading the constitution.

Since Lee referred to my arguments for going back to the Constitution’s parameters for copyright as communitarian, I’m wondering which Founding Father Lee believes was also communitarian? Does Lee believe Phyllis Schafly was acting in a communitarian spirit when she spoke against the copyright extension in 1998, or when she called for limiting the DMCA? The conservative movement has essentially reached a consensus on these positions, is it communitarian too?

A modern conservative movement that claims to be serious about the Constitution and founding principles cannot disregard the one provision of it that addresses copyright and explicitly tells us its purpose.

Copyright law exists for a specific purpose: promoting progress in the sciences and useful arts. How do we know that? The Constitution explicitly tells us so in stark, unequivocal language that is nearly as clear as the minimum age for serving in Congress or how many Senators each state gets. Arguing this point does not make one a communist, it makes one a constitutionalist.

Lee may not take the Constitution seriously, but there are millions of Americans who identify with the Tea Party that do, and the conservative movement ought to as well.

We can disagree about complicated issues of policy without calling each other names; we can have more civilized discourse than a copyright red scare.

These are discussions we should have, because, Lee’s assertions of current policy being perfect aside, 7 million Americans being potential felons for unlocking and jail-breaking their phones is evidence of a system having serious collateral damage. No one has ever been able to explain what unlocking and jail-breaking have to do with copyright and the Constitution. There is no real connection; at best it is a result of sloppy law-making, at worst, it’s a malicious attempt by progressives to destroy competition and innovation.

A world where Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, advises innovators to avoid anything involving content because it is so legally fraught is evidence of a system having serious collateral damage. “the record labels,” he said, “are effectively a rogue state with nuclear weapons. There is nothing we or anyone else can do to protect you from them, except warn you not to start startups that touch label music.”