The “Free Culture” Book Report Redux: Terry Hart’s Part 1 on why the RSC “paper” really wasn’t ready for primetime

Some of you may have heard about the “policy paper” that was posted on the website of the Republican Study Conference (which as near as I can tell is a kind of conservative caucus in the Congress) written by a Georgetown law student–and then promptly withdrawn by the RSC.  Why was the paper withdrawn?  As quoted in Variety (and many other outlets) the RSC spokesman said:

“On issues where there are several different perspectives among our members, our Policy Briefs should reflect that,” spokesman Brian Straessle said. “This Policy Brief presented one view among conservatives on U.S. copyright law. Due to an oversight in our review process, it did not account for the full range of perspectives among our members. It was removed from the website to address that concern.”

I’d put it a bit more bluntly: The report reads more like a book report on Free Culture rather than a bona fide policy paper.  For example, it omits many important issues that a government sponsored paper should take into account–such as the effects on our treaty obligations of the paper’s recommendations.

Terry Hart who writes the Copyhype blog has an excellent treatment of the paper:

Many on the internet were quick to declare the paper the absolute most stunningly brilliant paper history has ever produced. Techdirt’s Mike Masnick lamented the fact that, having read the paper, he will no longer be able to enjoy future papers, for they will only pale in comparison.

So not only are the usual suspects spinning about this startling deficient work product worthy of a Washington shillery like the CCIA or the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition (which of course may assume facts not in evidence) but we can’t help noticing that it is timed with the effort by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Google) to roil up the bots on Reddit to crowd source copyright reform…or something like that.

As Terry Hart says:

[A]ny debate or dialogue should begin with sound premises. This policy brief doesn’t. Instead, like an unfortunate strand of copyright skepticism, it runs from reality, rewrites history, and hides from logic.

How the paper got onto the RSC website, whether the author was in contact with a Google “evangelist” (which sounds like a lobbyist to me) apparently in violation of House rules and federal lobbying ethics laws, and why the typical outlets jumped so quickly onto a paper that only saw the light of day for a few hours late on a Friday afternoon all are questions to be answered in the fullness of time.