GOP staffer who authored copyright-reform paper loses job

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The copyright-reform debate within the Republican party has now cost someone his job.

Republican staffer Derek Khanna, who authored a report on copyright reform that appeared on the Republican Study Committee’s website in mid-November, was fired after the committee disowned the report and pulled it from its website.

The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney first reported on Thursday that Khanna had been fired.

Ars Technica followed up with a report that said “incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA), was approached by several Republican members of Congress” who were upset about Khanna’s report and asked that he “not be retained.”

Khanna, Ars Technica said, would not be returning as a staffer “when Congress re-convenes in January.” The 24-year-old former staffer declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

The Republican Study Committee, which is the 170-member conservative House caucus, is an independent research arm of the Republican Party.

Khanna examined in his report what he called “three myths of copyright law and possible reforms to copyright law that will lead to more economic development for the private sector and to a copyright law that is more firmly based upon constitutional principles.”

While even some conservatives are willing to concede that the current copyright system needs to be fixed, uproar ensued from content industry lobbyists and Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, according to The Washington Examiner.

Republicans are closely allied with the entertainment industry, according to Carney’s piece in the Examiner, echoing arguments made by copyright reform advocates who consider the current copyright regime a big government handout to copyright holders.

“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,” Carney said.

A Republican staffer told TheDC that the Blackburn had nothing to do with Khanna losing his job, claiming the firing was a decision by the leadership of the RSC.

“Copyright reform would have far reaching impacts, so it is incredibly important that it be approached with all facts and viewpoints in hand,” RSC Executive Director Paul Teller wrote in an email that retracted Khanna’s piece.

Teller did not immediately return TheDC’s request for comment.

“Congressman Blackburn has always supported private property rights and the right for individuals to own intellectual property,” Blackburn’s deputy chief of staff, Mike Reynard, told TheDC on Thursday. “They are foundational to our Constitutional principles and free enterprise system.”

Both political parties, however, have ties to the entertainment industry, and during the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) saga, Republicans were the first to abandon their support of the legislation after massive online protests against the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, had taken $3.5 million in campaign donations from industry groups and companies that supported SOPA, which TheDC previously reported.

Scott Cleland, president of Precursor, a Fortune 500 consultancy, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that copyright reform “has been a pet issue of the tech-left for over a decade.”

“The tech-left would love for their ideological foes to lead the charge on one of their strategic issues that they could not advance themselves and let conservatives take the hits that they are unwilling to take themselves,” said Cleland.

“The tech-left, i.e. Professor Lessig‘s Free Culture/CopyLeft movement and the Googleled Internet lobby, is hostile to copyright and intellectual property rights in general because they seek a property-less, Internet commons where “information wants to be free” (of cost.),” he wrote.

Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at George Mason’s Mercatus Center and author of the book, Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess, wrote on Monday: “Conservatives and libertarians, who are naturally suspicious of big government, should be skeptical of our ever-expanding copyright system.”

Brito also said that conservatives and libertarians “should also be skeptical of the recent trend toward criminal prosecution of even minor copyright infringements, of the growing use of civil asset forfeiture in copyright enforcement, and of attempts to regulate the Internet and electronics in the name of piracy eradication.”

Former Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who heads the Hollywood trade association, Motion Picture Association of America, urged the entertainment industry and technology industry to work together, in a conference keynote speech he delivered Thursday.

Dodd, who suffered a large portion of the criticism during the SOPA saga, said that Hollywood and Silicon Valley have more in common than they have differences.

“Not only does Hollywood work closely with Silicon Valley to create and promote films; Hollywood film and television creators are tech companies,” said Dodd.

“They celebrate innovation through the world’s most cutting-edge content, and they embrace technology as imperative to the success of the creators in their community,” said Dodd.

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