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Today’s hearing on innovation and copyright is short on innovators

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee launched a "comprehensive review" of copyright law. Today, the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet is having a hearing on the role of copyright in innovation. But the line-up is looking a little one-sided.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced a "comprehensive review" of copyright law earlier this year. (Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post)

Innovators are almost entirely absent from the list. The witnesses include the executive directors of the Copyright Alliance and the American Society of Media Photographers, and the general counsel of Getty Images. These groups represent established copyright interests that are likely to resist any serious reforms to copyright law. Slightly more innovative: the co-founder of an independent music record and distribution company, and the president of Stereo D, a company that produces 3-D versions of 2-D films. Completely absent: representatives from the information technology industry, whose innovations have transformed the market for copyrighted works over the last two decades, and who have repeatedly argued that overly-broad copyright law has stifled innovation.

And a perusal of the witnesses' testimony makes it clear that the common theme of the hearing will be "strong copyrights make a strong America." Overall, that leaves a discussion about the place of copyright in innovation in the hands of a group of stakeholders who tend to be resistant to technological innovation because it are viewed as a threat to their business models.

The witness list and messaging is reminiscent of the hearing on the controversial copyright enforcement bill Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in November 2011. That panel was dominated by supporters of stronger copyright enforcement, though at least it included a representative from Google opposing the measure.

Today's hearing is one of two planned before the August recess focusing "on the positive roles copyrights and technology play in innovation." Some have suggested that the other will be populated with technology industry representatives. When the second hearing will be held and who will be speaking has not been announced.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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