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Does Congress Have a SOPA Hangover?

Earlier this week over on Hillicon Valley, Jennifer Martinez penned an interesting piece about an apparent reticence on the part of many in Congress to introducing new legislation designed to curb online piracy, a hesitance reportedly tied to the public outcry against the Stop Online Piracy Act around this time last year.

According to Zoe Lofgren, a member of the House who represents California’s 19th District, some members of Congress remain “shell-shocked” from the SOPA backlash of early 2012.

“It was sort of an unprecedented experience that members do not want to repeat,” Lofgren told Martinez.

Given the tenor and intensity of the opposition to SOPA, I suppose it is understandable that many in Congress would be a bit gun shy about trying to address the issue of online piracy through new legislation, but this attitude seems to assume that no such legislation can be crafted that would be less objectionable to the public.

What if, instead of seeking to address piracy entirely through tighter regulations and more stringent intellectual property rights enforcement, Congress instead sought a compromise between the so-called “copyright maximalist” position and the Culture of Free perspective that has become increasingly popular in the Internet Age?

What if, in exchange for changes to the DMCA that made life a little easier on rights-holders who currently have to spend their time and resources ferreting out online infringements on their IP, Congress threw the Copyright Reform Now! crowd a bone by shortening the duration of copyright back to a period that is closer to the one envisioned under earlier iterations of U.S. copyright law?

I don’t pretend to have the solution that will make all parties to the copyright reform debate happy (which is, as Henry Clay noted, not really what “compromise” is all about, after all), but I feel like if the opposing side of the debate could move, even just a little, toward the other side’s position with respect to some of the key issues in the Great IP Debate, we might actually be make some progress that would benefit all involved.

Is the idea of a Grand Copyright Compromise a pipe dream? Probably, but it’s worth a shot. Reasoned debate, while a mighty rare animal in Washington (and everywhere else) these days, is still possible…. theoretically, at least.