National Review / Digital
Copyright for the Internet Age
What we like doing online should be legal


“Would you support blocking if some legal content were also blocked?” No: 57 percent. Yes: 35 percent.

“Should your Internet use be monitored in order to prevent copyright infringement?” No: 69 percent. Yes, or sometimes: 26 percent.

These should be cautionary numbers in the enforcement debate.

We also asked whether people should face penalties for downloading “an unauthorized copy of a song or movie.” Fifty-one percent support penalties, and 7 percent say it depends on the circumstances. That is not strong support for penalties, much less for the increased criminalization of infringement over the past 15 years. But it’s more than we’ll have in a few years. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, only 37 percent support penalties for unauthorized downloading; 53 percent are opposed. Seventy-six percent view the sharing of music files among friends as “reasonable,” compared with 50 percent for other age groups.

Partisan differences were minor, with Republicans showing slightly more enthusiasm for enforcement than did Democrats, and slightly more concern for privacy.

By all appearances, we are headed toward strong majority support for most of the elements of an IP-reform agenda, including wider user rights and a de-escalation of the enforcement wars. Which political party will represent this new majority?

Let’s rephrase the question: How would an Internet politics emerge in the Democratic party? The answer is probably simple: It is impossible in the short term because of the power of Hollywood and inevitable in the long term because of the power of time. Most of the young are already Democrats.

How would an Internet politics emerge in the Republican party? Given the decades of rhetorical entrenchment around property rights and law enforcement, it would probably require the recasting of intellectual-property rights as government monopoly, of SOPA-style bills as crony capitalism, and of Internet enforcement as part of a digital-surveillance state.

Such views in favor of recasting IP rights already have a home on the right, and are supported by congressmen such as Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz. Tactical considerations alone could produce Republican-led majorities on these issues, galvanized by the prospect of wounding the Democrats’ Hollywood money base or splitting Silicon Valley libertarians.

From such tactics we might get better laws or at least fewer bad ones, but we probably wouldn’t get a stronger Republican party — or a bigger one. For that, the transformation needs to be broader. The Republican party has an opportunity to take ownership of these issues by embracing the better impulses of the libertarian Right: opposition to monopolies and cronyism, and support for innovation and privacy protections. A majority of Americans endorse these principles already. A strong majority of young ones do. To be sure, it is a soft majority that has not yet consolidated its positions or allegiances. That’s what political leadership is for.

– Mr. Karaganis is the vice president of the American Assembly.

February 25, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 3

  • How Chicago reclaimed the projects but lost the city.
  • A bad idea rises from the ashes.
  • Beyond the Beltway, the Right is thriving.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Jay Nordlinger reviews Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict, by Elliott Abrams, and Little Red: Three Passionate Lives through the Sixties and Beyond, by Dina Hampton.
  • Mona Charen reviews What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George.
  • Florence King reviews The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War, by Stephen Puleo.
  • John J. Miller reviews The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy, by Roger Luckhurst.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Silver Linings Playbook.
  • Richard Brookhiser discusses boxing and praises the Champ.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .