Stanford Law professor, Creative Commons chair and all-around Net provocateur Lawrence Lessig took a big swing at one of the more tech-policy relevant Congressional committee chairman shifts on a Christmas Eve blog posting.
" ...is there any hope for such reform from the Democrats? Word from Washington so far: Fat chance. As reported in the LA Times two weeks ago ..., the crucial House IP subcommittee will be chaired by Hollywood Howard (Berman) — among the most extreme of the IP warriors. It is this committee that largely determines what reform Congress considers. It is the Chairman who picks what voices get heard. And while Berman is a brilliant man — whose brilliance could really have been used in the problems facing the mid-east — his brilliance has not yet been directed towards working out the problems of IP and the Net with any view beyond the narrowest of special interests.
"This is like making a congressman from Detroit head of a Automobile Safety sub-committee, or a senator from Texas head of a Global Warming sub-committee. Are you kidding, Dems? The choice signals clearly the party’s view about the issues, and its view of the “solution”: more of the same....
"...The Dems have looked at the potential “return” from the activists on the Net. They’ve considered the kids being sued by the industry (including the kids running MySpace, and maybe soon, YouTube), and the kids creating amazing new (but presumptively illegal) mashups and remixes, and they have compared that value to the party with the value promised by Hollywood. Result: the 20th Century continues to rule.
"Dems to the Net: 'Thanks for the blogs. And please continue to get outraged by MoveOn messages. But don’t think for a second we’re interested in hearing anything beyond the charming wisdom of Jack Valenti. We appreciate your support. We appreciate your money. But come on — you’re all criminals. Don’t expect your criminal ways to be taken seriously by an institution as respected as the US Congress.'”
This Variety piece on Berman - replete with MPAA endorsement - doesn't disagree with Lessig's line of thinking. The lede...
Howard Berman, the Dem congressman whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, Studio City and the Hollywood Hills, has long been a big beneficiary of entertainment industry bucks -- just over $1 million, since 1989. Now, with Berman set to take over the chairmanship of the House subcommittee that oversees intellectual property issues, the biz is poised to like him even more.
And, IP Democracy predicted right after the election that the Democratic win meant that Hollywood's intellectual property issues would get "even more attention"....
Even under a Republican-controlled House, Hollywood fared pretty well. But now, Hollywood stands an even better chance of getting ahead with its agenda to crack-down on all the lifting, mixing, matching and mashing, not to mention piracy, occurring with video on the Internet. In line to become head of the House Judiciary Committee’s Intellectual Property Subcomittee is Howard Berman (D-CA), whose district includes North Hollywood.
Berman, after all, was the congressman to propose a bill that would allow "illegal" tactics to fight P2P file-sharing of pirated content. Here is a Berman speech on the bill that delves deeper into his 2002 viewpoint on net copyright.
This might just be the holiday optimism in me talking, but, since Berman is extremely bright and is generally staffed with smart folk, perhaps he can pull a "Nixon in China" and be the ideal guy to begin instilling reality checks with his capital "C" Constituents as they push for legislation.
That said, I don't see how this helps the copyfight crowd in their desired effort to go on the "offense" and pivot from their well-worn defensive posture.