Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropBill Clinton signed the atrocity known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act—grotesquely extending the time when public domain works are locked up.

Will Hillary Clinton be any better on this and other issues such as the DMCA’s provisions getting in the way of fair use? A Variety headline reads: Hillary Clinton’s Big Hollywood Donors Help Raise $46 Million Plus. Hmm. Doesn’t look too promising. As a lifelong progressive, I’d vote for Hillary Clinton in a flash over the current GOP alternatives, but on copyright issues dear to e-book lovers, I’ll keep my expectations very low.

On the Republican side? Donald Trump is a real estate guy who very likely sees books and other content as just as perpetually ownable as land and buildings. But who knows? Copyright issues would be one way for him to shake up the Republican establishment, though I’d hardly count on it in this respect.

My own hunch is that the best candidate for e-book lovers would be Bernie Sanders, a populist who relies less on plutocratic campaign donors than do fellow Democrats.

I’m not surprised to see Sanders emerge as a favorite among many progressive techies. It isn’t just copyright alone. Sanders would at least try to improve income and wealth distribution, which would put more money in consumers’ pockets to buy e-books and related devices.

But wait! Yes, none other than Lawrence Lessig is running for president, and we know how he stands on the intertwined issues of copyright and campaign finance. Still, a Lessig victory is about as likely as my becoming leader of International Paper or the MPAA.

In a civil way, why not share your own hunches about e-books, copyright and the current crop of presidential contenders? And if any TeleRead community members want to volunteer to query the various presidential campaigns on the specifics, so we go beyond speculation—well, catch up with me. I’ll help whip the list of questions into shape, perhaps with assistance from a copyright attorney.

Needless to say, I’d love to see Hillary surprise us.


  1. Maybe I’m a little too cynical;, but somehow I don’t imagine that e-book-related or even copyright-related matters necessarily will be important enough to catch a President’s attention.

    Though I expect one bellwether might be how they feel about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which as I’ve written before threatens to supersede Congress’s attempts to deal with orphan works. Have any of the candidates expressed opinions on the TPP?

    I see Bernie Sanders is opposed to it. You know, I think I like him better already.

  2. @Chris: Big thanks for mentioning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I meant to. It’s a pretty good litmus test of where candidates are coming from—the Dems, at least—on copyright and other issues. For latecomers, I’ll include links to your TeleRead writings on the topic. As for whether the candidates will care about e-book issues, I don’t see the harm of at least trying to educate them. Perhaps Sanders would Get It immediately. David


    • @JimBrown: Logical question. That said, unless a bunch of publishers quietly slid money under the table to help S&S pay Hillary, I doubt there was a clear quid pro quo. What we can ask is whether such transactions—even without the least corruption involved—make public officials more likely to identify with writers and publishers at the expense of the rest of the country. No anti-content provider sentiment here, by the way—not as the author of seven books. I’d just like to see more focus on expanding the universe of readers as a way to boost revenue, as opposed to anti-consumer gouges abetted by copyright law.

  3. @MikeB: I can appreciate the point you’re making, but think of it this way: A copyright hawk of a president could actually veto reform legislation. What’s more, Bernie could get the White House lobbying operation on the correct side.

  4. When it comes to copyright, the politicians of both parties have demonstrated they are for sale. Revising copyright laws needs to exclude all politicians and include these features:

    1. International. It’s always been true that copyrighted material can cross borders, but the Internet makes that 1,000 times easier. Countries need to agree on almost all the new provisions. And provisions can certainly be made for less developed countries. There needs to be some way in statutory law to deal with the the widely differing costs of textbooks. They have to sell high in rich countries to cover the costs of creating them. They shouldn’t be expensive in countries where students will never be able to afford those prices.

    2. Sunshine. Every aspect of the debate needs to take place in the open. No secret deals. No hidden influences. Easily available Internet coverage. Openness to feedback.

    3. Everybody at the table. Copyright impacts a lot of lives. All those involved should have a say but none should have too much a say. In Sonny Bono, money talked too loudly. Money should not talk at all in this copyright revision.

    4. Creators come first. Those who create content should come first both in the protections they get and how they’re rewarded. Everyone else is comes second, third or whatever.

    5. Limited. Copyright terms should be limited to either life plus or some fixed term. Those who want life plus will be required to keep up their contact information, so when they died can be known.

    6. Registration and Contacting. Contrary to Berne, author registration and contact information updating should be either strongly encouraged or required. That’ll virtually eliminate the orphan problem.

    7. Creative Commons. It should be possible and easy for copyright holders to specify if they want to release what they’ve written under a Creative Commons-type licenses or, at the opposite extreme, prohibit any use not covered by fair use.

    8. Fair Use. The U.S. has pioneered concepts of fair use and other countries have drifted along behind it. That needs to be more formally stated.

    9 Limited Government enforcement. The more observant will notice that those who can most afford to pay to halt copyright violations (i.e. movie companies) seem intent getting governments to prosecute and save them money. Since governments are going to do the bidding of independent authors in this, they should be picking up the costs of giant corporations. Leave the enforcement of copyright to the holder, but simplify, speed up and make enforcement less expensive and, when possible, done without lawyers.

    10. Rights of the Author optional. These are requirements that protect authors from various indignities. Europeans like that. Americans don’t. Leave them out of international copyright law and let nations decide.

    11. Scheduled Revisions. Meetings every five years or so for revisions should be formally scheduled.

    That’s a partial list, but you get the general idea.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

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