Yes, it's easy to be a cynic. The members of the U.S. Congress and their staff all too often act in ways that suggest a certain failure to grasp the complexities of regulating "intellectual property" and technology -- whether it's the disturbingly pervasive attitude that more is always better when it comes to IP protection, or February's C-SPAN-gate, in which Speaker Pelosi was branded a copyright pirate by the GOP (wrongfully, it turns out) for posting some video footage of the House floor that had been taped from C-SPAN. (Even though the footage in question was already free for copying, the latter incident prompted C-SPAN to announce a new CC-style policy for its other footage of things like committee hearings, in which C-SPAN claims copyright.)
So that's why it's especially refreshing to have witnessed a few signs from the Hill over the past couple weeks suggesting that some members and staffers really do understand that IP and technology are critical issues (and not just for big donors from the private sector, but for ordinary folks too), and complex ones, with valid interests on multiple sides (and not just a matter of big content companies versus pirates/thieves/China/college students/etc.)
First, there was Rep. Boucher's umpteenth foray into DMCA reform which, although perhaps not as sweeping as many would like, has now been toned down enought hat it might possible stand a snowball's chance of getting of of committee.
Next, there was the letter from the two honchos of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senators Leahy and Specter, sent to both the Register of Copyrights (Mary Beth Peters) and the Director of the USPTO (John Dudas) asking them to scrap the Broadcast Treaty in its current form, dump the rights-based approach that the US has been favoring in the past, and instead advocate for a treaty "significantly narrower in scope," limited to the "signal theft" issues that were the original intended focus of the agreement.
And then, at last week's hearing on "The Future of Radio" in the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) waxed eloquent about the need to give a little breathing room in copyright law for the kind of productive, transformative copying engaged in by his hometown boy Greg Gillis, a/k/a Girl Talk, a DJ whose mash-ups get great write-ups by the (mainstream) music press.
Rep. Doyle expressed his sincere hope that Girl Talk wouldn't meet the same fate as DJ Drama, and be raided or otherwise shut down by over-zealous enforcement of overly-burdensome copyright law. (Yes, it really is all Drama, all the time here, isn't it?) While he stopped short of calling for sweeping legislative changes, he called on his colleagues to think about some hard questions posed by copyright and its associated regulation.
(via the 463 Blog, where Sean Garrett has typed up a partial transcript). There's more at TechDirt.
So, hat's off to Rep. Doyle (and Sens. Leahy and Specter, and even C-Span too).