Congress Attempting to Make Changes to Copyright Office, Seeking Control

In a move that shows the increased importance of intellectual property as an asset for companies and governments,  the US Congress is trying to make significant changes to how the Copyright Office is managed, seeking to exercise more control on the agency. 

Last year, on March 23rd, 2017, the House of representatives introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, led by Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia and John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan.

This bipartisan bill proposes to make important changes to the selection process for the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, also known as Register of Copyrights, requiring the Register to be nominated by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the US Senate.

This move has been characterized by Congress as an effort to modernize the Copyright Office with reforms being considered such as the inclusion of public advisory committees, improvements to Copyright Office systems, and copyright ownership for clarity.

Currently, the Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress, and its head is appointed by the Librarian of Congress, who, in turn is appointed by the president, and approved by the Senate.

This bill intents to give more power to the president of the United States in the selection of the Copyright Office head.

The implications of the move are enormous. It will allow industries related to copyright creations such as the movie and music industries to lobby the President and the Senate for the appointment of their favorite.

It is easy to assume the selection would be politicized.

The big players of the entertainment industries would be the biggest beneficiaries of such bill if enacted as law. 

The copyright office has been seen as a Librarian’s job but with the growing importance of the protection and monetization of intellectual property, especially by big companies, there is an interest to transform the post to gain influence, power and money in the management of the databases.

“It is important the Copyright Office stays apolitical”, says attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta.  “In the past, big entertainment companies have been accused of trying to influence copyright policy.  The proposed bill, which already cleared the House of Representatives, would increase the influence of the big players, affecting the interest of smaller creators of intellectual property”, Marcos concluded.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California, opposes the bill arguing that the Copyright Office will become a politicized pawn for the interest of the entertainment industry, instead of helping the individual creators.

Recently the EFF issued an action alert to pressure the US Senate, which has not acted on this issue yet, to vote no on this bill.

You can participate in the action alert following this link.

Marcos E Garciaacosta is business and trademark attorney with experience in intellectual property.  You can schedule a consultation at (480) 324-6378. 

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