ALA: “The Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress”

Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. For several years this administrative arrangement has caught the attention of members of Congress because, in 2015, the GAO identified the Copyright Office’s shortcomings in terms of the inability of the Library of Congress to support and management of the IT needs of the Office. See Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses (Mar. 31, 2015, GAO-15-315). That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. [LLB post]. The bill would make the Register of Copyrights position appointed by the president with confirmation by the Senate. Most, if not all, of the library community opposes this change as does Alisa Holahan, Google Policy Fellow, ALA, in Lessons from History: The Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress (2017). Here’s a snip from the report’s conclusion:

The Copyright Office can benefit enormously from the support of a modern, efficient, and mission responsive IT system at the Library of Congress, particularly when the Office is empowered to collaborate with the Library’s IT department. Congress’s rejection of multiple prior proposals to move the Copyright Office indicates that it recognized the important benefits of the Office’s location within the Library of Congress and the significant costs of severing that socially and economically valuable relationship.

This remains the case today. Little would be gained by moving the Office, and a great deal would be lost, particularly in terms cost savings and coordinating the modernization process. The progress toward critically needed modernization that has been made so far could be erased, and future such efforts would likely be stalled, slower, less efficient, and more expensive. Further, maintaining the traditional connection between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is important both because it honors a cherished relationship of more than a century and because it recognizes the special role copyright plays in promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all: the
Library’s own most fundamental mission.

— Joe

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