Copy Wrongs

by Ramesh Ponnuru

It seems pretty clear, first, that conservatives and libertarians have a range of views about what rules should govern copyright and, second, that the right set of rules cannot be simply deduced from first principles. If Derek Khanna has been attempting to portray his own views as those of conservatives generally, as Steven Tepp charges in a piece on the homepage today, then Khanna is wrong. Unfortunately Tepp then turns around and does the exact thing he accuses Khanna of doing (“Conservatives have a different view”). Toward the end of the piece Tepp concedes that reasonable people can disagree about the duration of copyright — but he has just said that proposals to cut it too much “simply aren’t conservative.” Is paring it back just a little unconservative? Does what constitutes too much of a reduction to count as conservative depend on Tepp’s sensibilities? Much of the rhetorical force of the piece is based on an equation of copyright with regular property — which is too simple-minded a view for Tepp to explicitly defend. He has a good point or two, but overall the article is not persuasive.

Update: I have a follow-up.