UPDATED with Statements from Library Copyright Alliance and Motion Picture Association of America at the bottom of this Post
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and committee member John Conyers (D-Mich.) have released a proposal that would give the U.S. Copyright Office more autonomy, although it would stay in the Legislative Branch of government. Most important, it would subject the Register of Copyrights, the highest copyright position in the U.S. government, to the same Congressional nomination process as other government officials. Currently, the Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress, and the Register is selected by the Librarian of Congress, with no review from lawmakers.
Goodlatte and Conyers’ proposal, which was issued along with a request for comments from stakeholders, doesn’t specify whether or not the Copyright Office would remain within the Library of Congress or operate independently, with Congressional oversight.
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Today, we are releasing our first policy proposal, which identifies reforms to modernize the Copyright Office so that it can meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Among the reforms in this document are granting the Copyright Office autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress, requiring the Copyright Office to maintain an up-to-date digital, searchable database of all copyrighted works and associated copyright ownership information, and many others reforms.
Nothing should be read into the fact that we are only releasing a policy proposal on one topic today. This is just the beginning of this stage of the copyright review, and we intend to release policy proposals on music licensing issues and other individual issue areas in time.
Comments due by January 31, 2017.
Comments and Reactions
The Library Copyright Alliance consists of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries.
“The Library Copyright Alliance appreciates Chairman Goodlatte’s and Ranking Member Conyers’ transparency and inclusiveness as they move into the final stages of preparing legislation to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office. LCA looks forward to working with and will participate fully at every stage in that process but underscore two key points today.
First, while we enthusiastically support modernization of the Copyright Office and appropriation of the resources needed to accomplish it, the Librarian of Congress – confirmed in large part for her expertise in managing complicated library technology overhauls – should not defer the appointment of a new Register of Copyrights who can immediately act to bring the office into the 21st Century. That need is simply too pressing to wait for what promises to be a long legislative debate over the Copyright Office’s possible autonomy from the Library of Congress to be concluded.
Second, any effort to reform the Copyright Office should not interfere with the long-standing legal requirement of depositing copies of works in the course of registering them with the Copyright Office. The deposit requirement has enabled the Library of Congress to become the world’s greatest research library. Copyright Office modernization should not come at the expense of the Library’s collection and the tremendous public benefits that it provides.”
Full Text of Motion Picture Association of America Statement:
The following is a statement from Joanna McIntosh, executive vice president for Global Policy & External Affairs of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., on the first policy proposal of the copyright review from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).
“The MPAA welcomes House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers’ proposal on Copyright Office modernization, which builds on important work by Representatives Issa, Nadler, Marino, Chu, Comstock, Deutch, and Chaffetz. Copyright Office modernization was identified as a critical issue in the House Judiciary Committee’s thorough copyright review, even before the recent events surrounding the Register. Modernization enjoys bipartisan, bicameral support, as evidenced by a similar proposal circulated by Senate Judiciary Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy.
“A vibrant, modern copyright system depends on a vibrant, modern Copyright Office. The current structure dates back to the 19th century and, as many members of Congress as well as past Registers have stated, in the 21st century the Copyright Office needs policy and operational autonomy to meet its statutory obligations to Congress and the public.”