Hillary Clinton’s campaign has posted an extremely long document listing all of Clinton’s talking points on the subjects of “Technology and Innovation.” And while the document is long enough to make your eyes glaze over, it does touch on a couple of points of particular interest to TeleRead.
For example, there’s this, about copyright. Clinton calls for an
Effective Copyright Policy: Copyrights encourage creativity and incentivize innovators to invest knowledge, time, and money into the generation of myriad forms of content. However, the copyright system has languished for many decades, and is in need of administrative reform to maximize its benefits in the digital age. Hillary believes the federal government should modernize the copyright system by unlocking—and facilitating access to—orphan works that languished unutilized, benefiting neither their creators nor the public. She will also promote open-licensing arrangements for copyrighted material and data supported by federal grant funding, including in education, science, and other fields. She will seek to develop technological infrastructure to support digitization, search, and repositories of such content, to facilitate its discoverability and use. And she will encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the U.S. and abroad.
Orphan works have been a subject of no small amount of contention over the years—just look at how the Google Books settlement hinged on letting Google sell ebooks of orphan works, leading Judge Chin to throw it out for overreach. It’s nice to see a Presidential candidate finally taking public notice of the controversy and pledging to try to do something about it.
But it’s unclear exactly how much Clinton will be able to do about that, even if she does get elected—especially if she ends up facing a hostile Republican Congress. It’s true that Obama was able to bring about exactly the sort of universal health care he pledged as part of his campaign, but that’s an issue that’s a lot more important to a lot more people than copyright. (Also, all the moneyed lobbies—the health insurance industry who wanted to make more money—were on Obama’s side. The moneyed lobbies around copyright all want more of it, not less.) And then there’s the matter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose copyright provisions could stop any attempt at copyright reform cold.
But, again, having a Presidential candidate even want to have a conversation about it is a pretty big advance from what we’ve had so far. Perhaps it will make it easier for orphan work legislation to gain some traction in Congress. Who knows?
There are a few other areas of potential interest in there, too. Hillary wants to “close the digital divide,” offering “the option of affordable broadband” to 100% of American households. She wants to deploy 5G and next generation wireless services, and repurpose more unused spectrum. She wants to promote STEM education and fight for an open Internet abroad. All great stuff, to be sure. And given how Trump’s been polling lately, we might well have a chance to see what she’ll do if she makes it into office—though that may be counting our chicken in every pot prematurely.
But all things considered, who would have expected that copyright and intellectual property issues could ever be a major cornerstone of a Presidential campaign? If nothing else, it goes to show just how important information has become in this new digital age.