After years of soliciting input from stakeholders on all sides of the copyright debate and a more recent, contentious ouster of Maria Pallante as U.S. Copyright Registrar in October 2016, comes the first in a series of expected reforms for the U.S. copyright system. On Thursday, Dec. 8, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee began the conversation by proposing autonomy of the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress.
The proposal retains the Copyright Office as part of the Legislative Branch and led by a Registrar, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Reforms are aimed at modernizing the agency, and funding technology upgrades including a searchable, digital database of historical and current copyright ownership. A noted IT modernization plan is estimated at costing $165 million over five years.
“These policy proposals are not meant to be the final word on reform in these individual issue areas, but rather a starting point for further discussion by all stakeholders, with the goal of producing legislative text within each issue area,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich) in a video statement (below).
Hayden, who took office in September, oversaw Pallante and reportedly assigned the Registrar to a new position that required she vacate her office and submit weekly reports to a deputy librarian about her duties, including a review of the library’s retail operation.
“The proposals set up a show-down between Congress and new librarian Carla D. Hayden over the future of the agency,” notes the Washington Post‘s Peggy McGlone.
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who issued their reforms earlier this year, said they looked forward to working with their House colleagues. “Based on our extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, we believe the Copyright Office should have more independence, accountability, and authority to make decisions in areas such as IT, budget, and staffing,” they said in a joint statement Thursday.
The House committee is seeking public comment on the proposal through Jan. 31. A library spokeswoman told the Post that Hayden plans to release a timeline for the hiring a replacement Registrar by year’s end.
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