I’m a writer by trade. I don’t have another gig as a lawyer or comedian or anything else. This is what I do to support my family.
Luckily, I’m able to do this because the work I create is covered by copyright. Salem—the parent company for sites like Townhall, Red State, Bearing arms, Twitchy, Hot Air, and PJ Media—is able to make money off content because that content can’t be found anywhere else.
At least most of it.
So, if you want to read what I have to say about the Second Amendment, you have to go to Bearing Arms to read it, because no one else can run it without permission.
Yet copyright tends to be more of a factor when it comes to entertainment. Books, movies, and television all enjoy copyright protection, which means you can’t just decide to start streaming Firefly on your own for fun and profit. You’ve got to deal with Fox, first.
However, as Jennifer Van Laar notes at Red State, big tech seems to be working to undermine much of that.
For years companies like Google and Spotify, whose revenue streams depend on content and profits depend on how cheaply they can acquire it, have worked to weaken copyright protections. They know they can’t get what they want through a transparent legislative process, so they’ve set their sights on effectively changing the law by using “a well-established legal organization to ‘restate’ and reinterpret our copyright laws for the nation’s judicial system.”
The organization, American Legal Institute (ALI), an invite-only organization for legal scholars, is known for its Restatements of Law, which have been described as “Cliff’s Notes” guides to various legal topics:
The ALI…is widely known and rightfully recognized within legal circles as an authority on explaining the law. Through their best-known works, called “Restatements of the Law,” the ALI compiles all aspects of a legal topic and publishes a “Cliff’s Notes” guide to that topic. These Restatements are regularly relied upon by our nation’s judges when they are asked to decide on cases requiring expert knowledge of a particular subject.
According to the Content Creators Coalition, ALI’s Restatements are “descriptive black-letter texts designed ‘to reflect the law as it presently stands’ that are used by courts, scholars, and legislatures to understand the current state of the law on any subject. ALI Restatements have historically been considered the gold standard for unbiased legal clarity and precision” (emphasis added).
Although ALI’s Restatements almost exclusively focus on common law (formed by precedent) and not statutory law, the organization started a project aiming to restate the Copyright Act, a federal statute, back in 2013 at the suggestion of UC Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson. According to then-Acting Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple:
[T]he Restatement project appears to create a pseudo-version of the Copyright Act that does not mirror the law precisely as Congress enacted it.
Samuelson is the founder of the Samuelson-Glushko Law Clinics (which one blogger referred to as “Silicon Valley’s answer to the Confucius Institutes)” who, at a Copyright Society of the USA conference “vehemently railed against awards of damages for copyright infringement while a room full of the nation’s top copyright law practitioners sat in shocked, slack-jawed silence or excused themselves for coffee.”
Van Laar did a second part of the story which you can and should read here, in addition to the full piece linked above.
Basically, though, Big Tech has decided that it wants to fund “legal research” that will undermine copyright because technology services benefit from looser copyright laws.
For example, you write a book. Now, I’ve written a few myself, so I know how much time and dedication goes into each one. Copyright laws allow you to have control over that book until or unless you give that up to someone, like a publisher. They then get the copyright so they can make money, giving you some of it.
But if there isn’t really any copyright protection for that work, then Google can get an e-version of the book and put it up online, selling advertising to the page they have your book posted at, where you earn absolutely nothing.
If that’s what you’re looking at, are you still going to write that book? Maybe, but maybe not.
Big Tech, however, doesn’t care because someone somewhere will write a book and if they can undermine copyright protections on that work, they’ll get to profit off of another’s hard work.
That ain’t right.
What’s happening here is that these Restatements, which are supposed to be based on the current understanding of the law, have been co-opted by some who actively oppose copyright protections in an effort to undermine the legal support for them. They’re blatantly misrepresenting the law in an attempt to effectively change the law.
And they’re likely to get away with it, too.
I know that copyright law is anything but sexy, but this is arguably more important than CRT, sexual identity, or any of a thousand other subjects I’ve written about. That’s because if they get away with this, they can effectively destroy any chance at a competing entertainment structure to Big Hollywood or the mainstream media. After all, they can just boost whatever they want from whoever they want without any ramifications.
Which is why some of their arguments are idiotic.
For example, at least some involved in these Restatements argue that copyright laws are anti-competitive. However, a big company would be able to steal from the little guy with any ramifications. Would any of the OG blogs have become what they later became if CNN could have just lifted the content and published it?
And in the process, the alternative media so many of us rely on wouldn’t be able to challenge the mainstream media.
But for some, they’re just going to use whatever arguments they can to please their Big Tech overlords. Whether those arguments make any sense is another matter.
I’ll agree that the copyright system has issues, but trying to undermine it entirely? Particularly at the behest of Big Tech? This is something we need to stand against. Otherwise, we’re looking at problems. Big ones.