Caucus Vote of Interest to Artists This Week

On Wednesday this week, the Democratic Caucus will vote to choose the new ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee in order to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Rep. Conyers.  For those who don’t know, the House Judiciary Committee is where copyright law is made, specifically the IP subcommittee.  The senior Member, currently holding the ranking position is Rep. Jerold Nadler of New York, and it is expected that he will be selected to remain in the seat.  But also vying for the ranking position is Rep. Zoe Lofgren of Silicon Valley, CA.

Nadler is generally supportive of copyright and the interests of creators—or at least he has a record of considering the interests of multiple stakeholders.  By contrast, Lofgren has a record of open hostility toward copyright law—somewhere between a closed door and an incoherent perspective that suggests she will blindly represent Google’s interests without regard for the significance of copyright law to American prosperity.

It was Lofgren who, in 2012 lobbed a personal attack on the USCO and then-Register Pallante for a statement the Register made that was unassailably accurate.  Pallante had said that “Copyright is for the artist first and the nation second,” a mathematically irrefutable—to say nothing of innocuous—statement that both Lofgren and Techdirt’s Mike Masnick seized upon in a sternly literal interpretation of the Constitution’s IP clause that reminds one more of Justice Gorsuch than anything a Democrat would say.

I wrote a fairly detailed post making a case for why Pallante’s statement was both pragmatically and philosophically defensible, but the reason I mention Lofgren’s attack here is to impress upon artists and creators that if she were to attain the ranking member’s seat, we can probably expect her to advance a view of copyright law that sounds an awful lot like Google’s playbook.

There is no action to be taken.  The Democratic Caucus will do what it does.  On issues other than copyright, it seems the party would be well-served by either representative filling Conyers’s vacated seat—though it seems Nadler is the more experienced legislator. But for artists and creators who’ve been slugging it out with Google for a very long time, it is worth knowing that Lofgren would almost certainly make the fight considerably harder.

© 2017, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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