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Republican Staffer, Author of 'Sensible' Copyright Memo, Talks About Firing, Backlash

Posted by: , 13:48 AEDT, Thu January 10, 2013

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Derek Khanna, Republican staffer who wrote "sensible" copyright memo, talks about the memo, the backlash from the "content industry" and his subsequent firing
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The Republican staffer who wrote what many have described as a "sensible" memo copyright, a memo which was almost immediately canned by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), has talked for the first time about his ordeal, his subsequent "firing", and the unexpected "backlash" the memo received from the content industry.

Speaking to Ars technica, Derek Khanna expressed no regrets over his intention to start a debate on copyright, something that was evidently needed after the SOPA fiasco.

The SOPA fiasco occurred because Congress, who had widely supported the bill before hastily abandoning it due to a large public backlash, failed to understand the strong anti-SOPA feelings of the very electorates that the members were supposed to represent. The defeat of SOPA was also a watershed moment for Internet based grass-root politics. Khanna describes the feedback received from constituents as "deafening". "It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and most congressional staffers I worked with had seen," Khanna added, also noting that members of Congress now routinely ask "is this the next SOPA?" when referring to a potentially tricky piece of Internet related legislation.

Khanna still stands by his memo, in which he advocates a wide ranging reform of existing copyright laws that he says can be seen more as protectionist measures, than laws that correspond to conservative principles in relation to the free market. His memo received broad support from conservative commentators such as The New York Times's conservative columnist David Brooks and Jordan Bloom at The American Conservative, but failed to receive any support from Khanna's own party, or even the committee he worked for.

Just the opposite, the RSC immediately withdrew Khanna's memo, citing "inadequate review". But Khanna explains his memo went through exactly the same review process as any other memo would, and in fact, featured more feedback than what would normally be required. "There was nothing particularly unusual about this memo," Khanna told Ars technica.

While just what made the RSC take action against the memo remains a mystery, but Khanna cites the backlash from the "content industry" took him completely by surprise.

And as for being let go, Khanna refused to comment on the details of the departure, which coincided with the arrival of a new chairman for the committee, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). But according to a report in The Washington Examiner, it was pressure from Tennessee congresswoman Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has close ties to the music industry due to her district's Nashville location, that ultimately led to the firing of Khanna.

So now that Khanna is out of a job, with currently nothing lined up, does Khanna regret writing the doomed memo? 

Not likely. "I encourage Hill staffers to bring forth new ideas. Don't be discouraged by the potential consequences," says Khanna, "You work for the American people. It's your job, your obligation to be challenging existing paradigms and put forward novel solutions to existing problems."


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