Hollywood Rep. to Wield Power Over Copyright Law

My colleague Cord asked me about proposing a tech agenda for Congress given the ascendancy today of Henry Waxman to Energy and Commerce Chairmanship; my immediate answer was “Adjourn.”

Anyway, the big news is that Rep Henry Waxman challenged John Dingell for Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship, and won. E&C has jurisdiction over, well, everything.

Waxman has been a member of Congress since 1975, reminding us of the saliency of term limits. What matters, one might argue, is not that constituents have a right to continue electing a member to the House if they want to; but that the rest of the nation for whom he makes binding law never gets the opportunity to kick the guy to the curb. Nothing personal, but–33 years?

Anyway that’s irrelevant now:  Waxman’s focus will be health care, most assuredly, and energy policy also (have a look at President-elect Barack Obama’s platform for reassurance about this). Keeping Michigan’s Dingell in the E&C chairmanship would have meant that the Democrat’s favorite energy-and-renewable-mandate policies would have been blocked by the leading Michigan Democrat. So he obviously had to go. The auto industry is tough and can take a dose of Waxman, I guess is what they figure. Never mind all that business over the past couple weeks about a Detroit bailout; it’s Thursday, all that stuff was the other day.

But on tech policy: since the committee has jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission and the Chairman represents Hollywood, he is newly influential over copyright issues and broadcast concerns like “airtime” for candidates and obsure stuff like net neutrality (which is the idea that internet infrastructure belongs to everybody except those who built it). Watch for the “Fairness Doctrine” issue to re-emerge. If memory serves, this is the notion championed by Democrats who are upset that Oprah gave such an infusion of support to Barack Obama, so I think they’ll be trying to make her showcase some Republicans on her show. Pretty noble of the Congressman and the party.