Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. The bill would make the Register position a presidential appointment with confirmation by the Senate, with 10-year term limit. It would create minimum standards for those who hold the Register of Copyrights position by requiring the officeholder to be a U.S. citizen who has professional background and experience in copyright law. Under the proposed legislation, the President will select a nominee from a list of names identified by a Congressional leadership panel that includes the Librarian of Congress.
H.R. 1695 was reported out of committee [H. Rept. 115-91] and placed on the Union Calendar on April 20th. The Hill’s Dina LaPolt and John Meller in H.R. 1695: A vital first step towards Copyright Office modernization opine that this change makes sense:
The Register advises Congress and accordingly, Congress should have a hand in who holds this position. It makes sense to appoint the Register via a standard nomination process involving our elected representatives, same as most other high-ranking government officials. Why should the Librarian have unilateral authority over an appointment that impacts so many livelihoods in the United States?
AALL opposes the bill, stating that our association believes it is unnecessary and would create management conflicts within the Library of Congress. But LaPolt and Meller report that two former Registers support it.
This bill is also supported by two previous Registers of Copyright, Marybeth Peters and Ralph Oman. They point out that the Act would address issues that have escalated in the relationship between the Copyright Office and the Library, which they state are “structural, not personal or political”, and explain that Congress should be able to obtain “independent copyright advice straight and true from the expert agency” rather than “filtered through the lens – and shaped by the perspective – of the head of the national library”. Their opinion should carry great weight here—especially since they were themselves appointed unilaterally by the Librarian.
What do you think? — Joe