On Nov. 16, the Republican Study Committee sent out an internal brief to its more than 170 members and their staff. The memo was a blistering indictment of copyright law.
"Copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez-faire capitalism," the paper declared, and its irresponsible expansion "destroys entire markets" Polemical arguments, to be sure, but not altogether new ones: a substantial body of literature, mostly from academics on the left--but increasingly on the right as well--argues that the lengthening terms and harsher enforcement of copyright over the last 30 years has taken us from a system that incentivizes innovation to one that stifles it. What was unprecedented here was less what the memo said than where it came from: the conservative caucus of the House of Representatives.
Though taking up copyright reform could be a savvy move for the GOP--it's popular with young people and the issue divides Democratic money in Silicon Valley and Hollywood--the memo ultimately didn't portend any such thing. Indeed, within 24 hours of being released, the document had been retracted, and less than a month later its author, 24-year-old RSC staffer Derek Khanna, had been fired.
Yet the paper was praised by National Review's Reihan Salam and influential Republican strategist and tech guru Patrick Ruffini, among many others. Khanna earned himself a New York Times mention by David Brooks as a "rising star" who bucked his party's typical "lobbyist-driven position" on copyright.
So the memo's public reception wasn't what caused the RSC to balk. Rather individual members of the RSC took the unusual step of putting pressure on the organization to get rid of Khanna. In particular, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of …