September 30, 2003

Derek Channels Litman [7:40 pm]

Derek Slater asks Jessica Litman’s Digital Copyright question, asking how to go about Designing Litman’s Lawyer Into the Legislative Process

It’s a good question, and I suggest Prof. Litman’s book to interested readers, but I would argue, as she does, that there already is a governmental agency charged with that task — the United States Congress. After all, they are our elected representatives, right? In a representative democracy, is not their role to represent the public’s interests?

If the Congress thinks it’s competent to decide whether to bomb Baghdad or not, I would think that they should be able to grapple with the complexities of copyright legislation. The fact that our Congress lets Jack Valenti and others of his ilk negotiate over the future of the public domain is disgusting.

As Litman points out, maybe Congress had a legitimate reason for leaving the development of copyright legislation in the hands of the publishing industry when they were so few. But technology has made publishers of us all, and Congress needs to take care of us, too. That may mean that we need an agency to explain things to or monitor thing for the Congress (like OMB does) — maybe it’s a new mission for the Library of Congress? But I want my elected representatives to get back into the fray — and we should be holding them accountable.

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