Whose Idea was the RSC Memo on Copyright? Don’t ask Derek Khanna

Derek Khanna has been on a media blitz lately following the White House’s endorsement of a “We the People” petition to “make cell phone unlocking legal”. Khanna — who considers himself a “copyright reform” advocate (but in our opinion could more accurately be called a “Derek Khanna” advocate) — created a moral panic over cell phone unlocking as the first step in a sustained “war” against artists and creators, the goal of which is to strip them of their already weak legal protections.

Khanna, you may recall, first stepped into the spotlight last November after he authored a memo for the Republican Study Committee that called for severe and regressive changes to copyright law. The memo was filled with historical and factual errors (as well as numerous typos) but was considered one of the most eloquent writings to come from the copyleft; it was quickly withdrawn from the RSC’s website.

Earlier, we had noted that Khanna himself has publicly admitted of the memo, “No one requested it. I just thought it was a good idea.”


Interesting. Because just a few days ago, Khanna spoke about the memo to Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. His story was a little bit different this time. According to Klein:

It was November 2012 and Derek Khanna was working as a staffer in the Republican Study Committee, which acts as a kind of think tank for the conservative wing of the House Republican Conference. Khanna, whose job was to follow issues pertaining to technology, homeland security and government oversight, was asked to draw up a short brief on copyright law — something the group could hand out to House Republicans in the hopes of getting some legislation moving. “The memo wasn’t my idea,” he says.

(Tip to Derek Khanna: if you want to get into politics, you have to make your flip-flops a little less obvious.)

3 thoughts on “Whose Idea was the RSC Memo on Copyright? Don’t ask Derek Khanna

  1. If this piece is to become a touchstone of the copyright debate/discussion, we need to know where it came from. If the MPAA or the RIAA released a paper with this level of transparency it would be laughed at and disregarded by those with opposing views. Rightfully so.

    Right now, we know who wrote the paper, but not who requested it, what supervision it was under and who, if anyone, approved its publication. This is not an acceptable way to interject a work into the public discourse.

    In the end, I have to agree that Derek Khanna is doing more to further his name than his view and this only furthers that image.

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