The US House’s Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet convened on Thursday 03.13.14 to discuss Section 512 of Title 17 of the Copyright Code. The hearing dealt with piracy, takedown notices, and online copyright infringement.
I watched the entire hearing with interest and I recommend that you do the same, especially if you’re a musician or any other “content creator.” While many of the lawmakers offered uninformed comments or questions, there were some insightful kernels, and the panel – lawyers, law professors, legal counsel for Google and Automattic Inc. (i.e., WordPress), and composer/bandleader Maria Schneider – was particularly noteworthy.
This is a topic that I’m passionate about, and paying for what you like is one of this blog’s long-running tropes. If I have the time, I’d like to provide a more longform commentary on the hearing, but a few brief thoughts in the meantime:
• I intentionally don’t get politically partisan on this blog – that’s not this site’s purpose, nor do I want it to be. Having said that, I find it particularly illuminating that a majority of the lawmakers implicitly siding with big business and piracy seemingly going against the artists and content creators are the same folks trumpeting entrepreneurship to anyone with eyes and ears. Freedom? Curious.
• Thank you Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a former judge, for calling freeloaders what they are: THIEVES. He also acutely defined the conundrum: In typical theft/crime, we expect the state (i.e. police) to intervene. With piracy and intellectual property, we expect the private sector to settle it amongst themselves.
• Google’s lawyer, Katherine Oyama, seemed at times to be evasive, happily taking questions about search term autocomplete and answering with information about manually entered searches.
• Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and the aforementioned Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) stood out to be as being the most genuinely interested and/or informed of this topic.
• Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX). Wow; I didn’t know he was on this panel. I’ve seen this dunce in various interviews before. His questions are perfectly representative soundbites. People voted for him. Hm…
• Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) did his usual grandstanding, on this occasion in support of thievery. Curious, given the allegations of car theft in his past…
• I think Ms. Schneider did well in representing “content creators.” Well done on the visual aids to discuss the steps and verbiage surrounding YouTube uploading and takedowns.
• It’s odd that we can continue to reference YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc., as having been started by the proverbial “two guys in a garage.” What about four guys/gals in a garage (i.e., a band)? Why aren’t musicians being represented in the same entrepreneurial light? Are these not small business (and occasional big businesses) also?
• Topic aside, I found it almost disturbing at how quick each lawmaker was to compliment and massage Google as a whole. Even many of their criticisms were sandwiched with praise. (And no, this isn’t an Apple vs. Google statement.)