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Politics Your Rights Online

Former GOP Staffer Derek Khanna Speaks On Intellectual Property 147

cervesaebraciator writes "Tim Lee over at Ars Technica recently interviewed Derek Khanna, a former staffer for the Republican Study Committee. As reported on Slashdot, Khanna wrote a brief suggesting the current copyright law might not constitute free market thinking. He was rewarded for his efforts with permanent time off of work. Khanna continues to speak out about the need for copyright reform as well as its potential as a winning electoral issue and, according to Lee, he's actually beginning to receive some positive attention for his efforts. 'I encourage Hill staffers to bring forth new ideas. Don't be discouraged by the potential consequences,' Khanna told Ars. 'You work for the American people. It's your job, your obligation to be challenging existing paradigms and put forward novel solutions to existing problems.' Would that more in both major parties thought like this."
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Former GOP Staffer Derek Khanna Speaks On Intellectual Property

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  • The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:09AM (#42543489)

    Would that more in both major parties thought like this.

    Isn't that sort of problem? People who do think like that get kicked out of their parties. Serving their constituents isn't the purpose of the modern political machine, that's just something they need to do enough of to retain power.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:22AM (#42543527) Homepage Journal

    I've thought long and hard about copyright law, what the problems are, and I've come up with some solutions.

    The problems with copyright are obvious. We now have a system where copyrights almost never expire anymore. There are two extremes, the protect copyright until the end of time crowd and the lose it right after you publish crowd. I think there's a reasonable medium.

    First of all lets deal with copyright terms.

    I think ten years of protection after the initial publishing is a great start. Many people think this is good enough, however I don't begrudge an author profit because something was written too long ago. Stephen King is making all kinds of money off of 30 year old books and I think he deserves it. There's a difference between his 30 year old books and say the 30 year old books by many other authors. He's actually still selling his.

    Use it or lose it.

    To protect people who actually still are selling their works I propose production based protection. For physical media at least 5,000 copies must be produced during the two years preceding the expiration of the 10 year term. This prevents the company from making five copies in a "production run" and giving them away to contest winners or putting them on eBay. It makes them actually produce a volume they will want to sell. If they don't then it's public domain. I really hate "hard" numbers like 5,000. That's nothing to a big guy but huge to a small publisher, I just can't think of a reasonable alternative. Every time a production run of at least 5,000 units is made the copyright is automatically extended for five years, assuming of course that run was made before the copyright expired.

    Upon the death of the author the estate has 1 year from the time of the authors death to make a last production run to secure five more years of copyright protection. This allows widows and children to receive some going away royalties. If the author dies 10 years to the day after the only production run of his work this give the family a free 11th year to do something about it. Barring a new production run the copyrights expire naturally or 1 year to the day after the authors death should they expire within that year.

    As for electronic distribution not only must it remain for sale it must remain for sale in formats supported by technology that can still be purchase. It had better work a Kindle, PC, Nook, iProduct or something being produced. Selling a game on Nintendo's virtual console can protect the original. This may even motivate Nintendo to make or officially license other companies to make classic hardware like Sega and Atari do just to cover all the bases as selling cartridges for an Atari 7800 today benefits next to no one. Selling a "digital copy" of Pong for $25,000 is out of the question as well. Digital copies cannot exceed the original MSRP adjusted for inflation by more than 10%.

    This would do away with lost works, like Marble Madness 2 where only two copies were ever actually known to exist. Under my rules the game would be public domain now (it would just be up to the rest of us to persuade one of the two people who own copies to upload them). It would also allow fans to scan in copies of Omni Magazine and the like to be shared with the rest of the world. Heck, you could look forward to a monthly release cycle of expired magazines.

    Corporations have a maximum of 50 years copyright on any production since they are theoretically immortal entities. If a corporation chooses they may designate a director, actor, writer or someone as the possessor of the copyright and they can maintain exclusive publishing rights from the individual. This may pay off in the case of a child actor, but it's a gamble for the company itself and it leaves room for a disgruntled copyright holder to take his movie elsewhere. Copyrights transferred from a corporation to an individual (except by lawsuit which involves infringement) shall still be subject to the 50 year limitation to prevent a company from transferring a 49 year old movie to

  • Re:The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:33AM (#42543575)

    The problem is, you can't vote against someone. You have to vote for someone. For your vote to be meaningful, there has to be someone worth voting for. Those people are culled before they get in a position to be included on a ballot.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:08AM (#42543693)

    "There are two extremes, the protect copyright until the end of time crowd and the lose it right after you publish crowd. I think there's a reasonable medium."

    The opposite is true, moderates like yourself in the past said the same thing every time copyright legislation came up for debate over history. See below: []

    The moderates have been defeated and absolutely ROUTED repeatedly. With such defeats the moderates at this point have no credibility.

    The beginning of copyright began as a moderate thing and as always when you give an inch of power to ANYONE they will never give it back and will seek to increase their privileges as we've seen. If you give ANY privilege at all it will be expanded on, this is the historical norm. The moderates have no historical evidence that moderation is even possible because corporations have the money, time and lobbyists on their side to undo any moderation if it ever was enacted as the evidence of history attests.

  • Re:The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:19AM (#42543731)

    Actually, I do, because I'm not American. Even proportional representation does't solve the problem created by a few, large parties dominating the political landscape. Parties with few seats are generally irrelevant unless the difference between the major parties is small enough for their votes to become decisive, and then they get power out of all proportion to their position.

    That's not to say PR isn't better than first-past-the-post - it is - but a governmental duopoly is problematic regardless.

  • Re:The Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WrecklessSandwich ( 1000139 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:20AM (#42543733)

    That would be an interesting way to increase voter turnout. Let me cast -1 votes for a candidate instead of voting for the other guy that I don't really care for. Treat them as -1 votes for the actual result, but publish them separately to show the difference between a broad mandate for the winning candidate and "we're only supporting you because your opponent is a total fucking nutbag".

    Might even make a nice dent in the two-party system. Making up numbers for a moment, suppose a quarter of Democratic voters in 2012 were really sending a message of "holy fuck Republicans are crazy" and voted Democrat because they were afraid of whatever Republican candidate winning. That's a quarter of the votes for the Democratic candidate gone. Almost gives the Greens a fighting chance without necessarily gaining a lot of supporters on their own. Same goes for the various Libertarian-leaning parties on the right.

  • Use it or lose it is already a farce. Authors make deals with publishers requiring publishing runs or the author regains control of the work. As you've alluded to the publisher will produce 5 copies in a run and claim they're still being published so they can retain the rights. If you require 50 trillion copies per run minimum then they'll simply spin off a shell company who buys the books with the money the parent company gifted them. Require physical copies and they'll just make 10 copies and run the fake customer gambit 10 trillion times.

    Look, copyright laws were enacted for the benefit of society as a whole. We have no proof that they're needed. How will authors and artists get paid? The same way a car mechanic does. They simply don't do the work unless they have a contract to get paid for the work. Instead of selling a piece of software I can simply say: Look, here's my idea, I'll make this for $X, that'll cover dev costs and a bit of profit. People like the idea, they agree to pay, I make the software, I get paid, everyone gets the software for free afterwards (since the work has been done and paid for). No more piracy at all; That's because there's no more artificial scarcity.

    The only difference between that and the current system is Publishers. If I make software working under a Publisher, I still get the same $X to do so. The only difference is that after I'm done a Publisher uses legally enforced artificial scarcity to try and get lots more money without actually adding anything of value to the product. They're leaches, they don't need to exist.

    This is the Information age, everyone is a publisher and distributor now. That's why the original strict copyright laws are obsolete. These laws were created to protect authors from greedy Publishers, and in a time when copy machines were few and expensive. The founders thought that 14 years would be plenty of time back then, when making duplicates was tough. Now there are digital copy machines in nearly every household item -- Even some magazines themselves! Thus making EVERYONE subject to the strict laws that were meant to apply only to the professional Publishing houses. Now that copying is easy copyright terms span 3 to 4 generations of humans?! You & your life, then 70 years: Have kids @ 30, they die 30 years after you die, and your grand kids 30 years after that... Ten years after your grand kids are dead THEN the work MIGHT enter the public domain -- providing there is a readable copy somewhere... No, this isn't what the founders meant by "a limited time".

    You give the publishing creeps an inch and they'll take that inch an infinity number of times, then claim they're only taking an inch! They have teams of lawyers just to find loop holes. Meanwhile they've managed to turn copyright laws on its ear, they figured out ways to ensure the Authors never reclaim their rights after publishing, and they've applied the laws meant to restrict them to everyone, even teenagers!

    I'm sorry pal. There is no proof that Copyright is doing it's job, providing benefit for society as a whole and promoting the arts an sciences. We need a new approach to laws: Stop operating under unproven hypotheses. It's unscientific. ASININE. No engineer or scientist would allow themselves to be ruled in such a way. Until you come back with PROOF that in this day and age copyright law is beneficial to society, I'm sorry, get bent. Laws based purely on speculation with no proof they're beneficial should be abandoned as unfit theories until they're tested.

    Don't you believe in the scientific method? We must abolish them to even see if they're beneficial. WE HAVE TO DO THE EXPERIMENT.

    Note: If you come to the bargaining table with your best offer out of the gate, then you'll get talked into a deal you didn't want. Aim for the price better than you want, and you'll strike a deal much closer to what you wanted. The way to get reform is to point out how ridiculous it is and insist on scientific proof of merit before re-enacting the laws. THEN we might see some loosening of the laws. I'm not a fool for overshooting my aims, you're the fool for asking for what you actually want to happen!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:29AM (#42543971)

    ...King is making all kinds of money off of 30 year old books and I think he deserves it.

    You've missed the point completely.

    If Copyright lasted 2 weeks, he could still be making all kinds of money off of his books.
    You hidden assumption that Copyright == right to sell and that no Copyright means loss of ability to sell is false .

    This is what the R1AA (, etc.) wants people to believe. What (the current) Copyright deprives us is the amazing
    spin-off products that could be possible but are stopped.

    Copyright was retroactively applied, illegally I might add, to many works that had already passed into the Public Domain (in the U.S.).
    But consider if Copyright had existed in it's current form back in 1925 (I don't know the exact "Mickey Mouse" year),
    does anyone really believe we, as consumers, would have the choices that we have today? Steve Jobs did NOT come up with the
    idea of rounded corners, he simply applied it to the iThings. Look back through any old magazines, and you see so much conceptional
    prior art on that design - you can't believe how clever your grandparents really were.

    Too, for example, much of the music from the 70's was built on music from the 60's built from the 50's, and so on. Each and every
    interview I have ever seen with a musician has always asked the question who/what influenced your/their style. No one has ever
    responded that they pulled it out of thin air. Ever! That 1-4-5 progression - their would be only one song that actually had it, all of
    the others would be an infringement no matter what lyrics or tempo applied.

    So, you call BS - you don't hear of that now with the "new and improved" Copyright system and there is a lot of music that "sounds"
    alike already - what are you talking about? People seem to forget that there's only a few houses that hold Copyright on music now,
    BMI, Sony, and others amounting to a small handful (relative to the amount of works produced). Remember too, that Copyright
    protects the PUBLISHER, not the original author. So, getting back, Sony's not going to sue itself for infringement, etc. And the
    big publishing houses "work" with each other in this regard. That's why things "appear" to work.

    Consider The Lord of the Rings - pretty original, right? Well, maybe. I'm sure trolls were mentioned in other prior works - so that
    would be infringement, wizards too. Let's face it, Gandalf was pretty standard as far as the "wizard" template goes. He performed
    magic, cast spells, and was great with the pyrotechnics. Not, it's not silly - double dare you to produce a book/movie about a man
    who was bitten by a spider and has the attributes of that spider - let's call him Webman - let's see how far you get with today's Copyright laws...

    The founding fathers (of the U.S.) understood a lot more than we give them credit for -- which is why Ex Post Facto was added
    (sadly, this is being largely ignored by our current group of elected officials) to the U.S. constitution.

    CAPTCHA = certify

  • by Phreakiture ( 547094 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @07:57AM (#42544259) Homepage

    It is an old-style syntax, but valid. A more modern expression might be "It is too bad that there aren't more in both major parties who think like this."

  • by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @08:25AM (#42544347) Homepage

    That really is the problem isn't it? There is only ONE major party, the Repubmocrats.
    In spite of having simple philosophical differences, they always manage to agree to fuck anything up that involves their Constitutional job and the people.
    This is what we get for letting them set their own level of power and sell us out to corporate interests.
    Quit damn voting for Repubmocrats!

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray