Article I, section 6 of the U.S. Constitution provides that for “any Speech or Debate in either House” of Congress, members “shall not be questioned in any other Place.”  It would be nice to think that, cloaked in this immunity, our Congress could truly be one of the world’s great deliberative bodies, but how often does CSPAN capture even a hint of lucid and original, much less courageous, expression on the floor of either chamber?  Even if the inclination where there, the opportunity is seldom presented.  In the Senate, a determined minority of members can prevent a floor debate on any measure that lacks broad bipartisan support, and in the House the majority leadership will not allow any bill that it does not already have the votes to pass (or on which it simply wishes to stage a sham vote for PR purposes) to reach the floor.

Lately the supression of robust debate has been extended to the committee rooms and hallways, guaranteeing that disruptive ideas will never bubble to the surface.  Shortly before the election Republicans pressured the nonpartisan Congressional Research Office to withdraw a report that found no empirical evidence of a correlation between top marginal tax rates and economic growth.   And last week the Republican Study Committee — “a group House Republicans organized for the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives”— found itself at the receiving end of such pressures when it released a paper raising the heretical notion that legislation extending copyright terms and toughening remedies for copyright infringement has crossed the line to where it is actually detrimental to the Constitutional purpose to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”  Reportedly, the paper—a non-binding “policy brief”—was withdrawn and removed from the RSC website in less than a day in response to complaints from the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Fortunately, samizdat copies of the paper are still circulating and I have linked to one here.  It is less interesting for its ideas, most of which have been espoused elsewhere more forcefully, than for its source.  Who would have expected some of the most conservative members of the House to express regret that copyright law has “retarded the creation of a robust DJ/Remix industry”?   Perhaps this was intended as a starting point for Republican outreach to demographic groups that voted so decisively against the GOP on November 6th.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Recent Posts

  • Unfair to Genius

    Unfair to Genius is an enlightening and entertaining romp through 60 tumultuous years of legal, artistic, and economic change in the American popular music industry, as seen through the lens of one of its most prolific copyright litigants and legendary outsiders, Ira B. Arnstein. "I suppose we have to take the bad with the good in our system which gives everyone their day in court," Irving Berlin once said, but "Arnstein is stretching his day into a lifetime."

    "Rosen paints a fascinating portrait of one of history's most fertile creative eras--the rise of Tin Pan Alley, or the 'Age of the Songwriter' as Rosen calls it--and the book brims with history relevant to today's disruptive technology climate."

    -Publishers Weekly

    "There's fun to be found in 'Unfair to Genius' as it leavens legal history with showbiz anecdote, and insight with amusement."

    -The Wall Street Journal

    “Superbly researched and written . . . Rosen deftly plots the rise of the music industry in America."


  • Categories

  • Gary A. Rosen

    Gary A. Rosen, a lawyer, has litigated copyright, patent, and other intellectual property cases for more than 25 years, and is a Lecturer in Legal Studies at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Before entering private practice, he served as a law clerk to federal appellate judge and award-winning legal historian A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. He holds a degree in physics from Haverford College and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. He and his wife Lisa, a physician, and their two children live outside Philadelphia.
  • Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: