Thursday, March 30, 2017

House Judiciary Committee Passes Bill to Restructure Copyright Office

On March 29, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017. The Committee's vote is a positive step toward modernizing the Copyright Office. H.R. 1695 would bring needed restructuring to the Office by making the Register of Copyrights appointed by the President – rather than by the Librarian of Congress – and subject to Senate confirmation.

Discussing H.R. 1695 in a March 23 Media Advisory, Free State Foundation President Randolph J. May stated that the adoption of such legislation "will provide the Office with the autonomy that is needed to overcoming administrative and technological obstacles that now keep the Office from carrying out its key registration and recordation functions as efficiently and effectively as it should." FSF President May and I further described the need for Copyright Office modernization and the economic benefits of updating its administrative functions in a January 31 letter to the Committee.

H.R. 1695, which is sponsored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, has strong bipartisan backing. In passing H.R. 1695, the Committee amended the bill to establish a selection committee comprised of Congressional leaders and the Librarian of Congress to recommend a slate of three or more potential nominees for Register to the President. The Committee also amended the bill to provide that the Register can be removed only for cause. These amendments are compatible with Copyright Office's status as a legislative agency, and also consistent with H.R. 1695's overall purpose in restructuring the Office to give it increased institutional autonomy.

Having been approved by the Committee, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 will hopefully receive further timely consideration in the House.