House Administration Committee Holds Hearing on U.S. Copyright Office Modernization

On June 26, the Committee on House Administration held a hearing titled The U.S. Copyright Office: Customers, Communities, and Modernizations Efforts. The hearing featured Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights and Director at the U.S. Copyright Office, as the only witness. Throughout the 70-minute hearing, Register Perlmutter took questions on the status of the Office’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) study, registration modernization, modernization efforts surrounding its Enterprise Copyright System (ECS), resources needed for modernization efforts, the notice of proposed rulemaking for electronic deposit copies, and right-to-repair issues. While Register Perlmutter discussed general timelines and commitments on the modernization of the registration system and straightforwardly answered Committee members’ questions, many pressing modernization issues, unfortunately, went unaddressed.

Opening Remarks

Chairman Bryan Steil (R-WI) opened the hearing by outlining the Committee’s legislative branch oversight over the Copyright Office and explaining that the goal of the hearing would be a focused discussion on large batch registration, IT modernization and AI policy, and the safe promotion of innovation. Modernization efforts, he said, “make [registration] simpler, easier, and more efficient for everyday copyright holders to register their works.” Ranking Member Joe Morelle (D-NY) also delivered brief opening remarks that detailed recent accomplishments of the Copyright Office, like the Copyright Claims Board and the ECS. Additionally, Morelle echoed Steil’s AI concerns and the importance of the Copyright Office’s AI guidance and leadership, while also highlighting the importance of right-to-repair issues, particularly in the context of the triennial rulemaking process.

Register Perlmutter Describes USCO Modernization Efforts

In her opening remarks, Register Perlmutter stressed that the Office closely collaborates with the Library of Congress’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), but that the Copyright Office determines the business priorities of its modernization efforts. She detailed advancements in modernizing the ECS, including the introduction of electronic recordation, which replaced a paper-based system and allowed for more efficient and faster recordation. Perlmutter also described plans to initiate a pilot version of the standard registration application and improve deposit upload capabilities by the end of the year. Other achievements she mentioned were prioritization of outreach and communication on other updates to the copyright system including administration of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and the operations of the Copyright Claims Board (CCB).

Questions for the Register

Chairman Bryan Steil

Chairman Steil (R-WI) first questioned Register Perlmutter about AI and the status of the Copyright Office’s review on the Artificial Intelligence landscape. He stressed the importance of guidance and leadership from the Office. Perlmutter responded that the report will be released in intervals, with the first section addressing digital replicas to be released in the coming weeks. The second section on the copyrightability of AI will be released toward the end of summer, and the other sections on infringement, fair use, licensing, and allocation of liability will be released in the fall.

Chairman Steil then asked about delays to those issuance dates, and Register Perlmutter said that, except for the digital replica report, which they had hoped to publish in June, the other reports would be on time. Steil also inquired about potential state legislation concerning various AI issues, including digital replicas, that could be enacted before the Copyright Office issues their reports and whether that was a concern for the Office. Register Perlmutter responded by saying that a patchwork of inconsistent state laws is a concern, but that Congress is also looking into legislative solutions. Lastly, Steil asked if Register Perlmutter believed that the Copyright Office had sufficient “human capital” and knowledge to navigate the new technology issues. Register Perlmutter answered in the affirmative, stating that the Copyright Office does not see AI as being any different than challenging technological issues of the past. She assured the Committee that the Office’s staff has routinely faced challenges surrounding new technologies and that they strive to stay up-to-date and educated.

Ranking Member Joe Morelle

Ranking Member Morelle (D-NY)continued the AI conversation and Register Perlmutter explained the Office was examining AI issues from two lenses: a policy lens (with assistance from Congress) and an administrative lens focusing on the registration of copyright claims for works containing generative AI elements. Morelle asked whether works generated by AI, where you cannot trace a human authorship element, are copyrightable, to which Register Perlmutter replied that there was no copyright protection for such works. She explained that this position has been confirmed by the D.C. District Court in a recent copyrightability case, though the case is currently appealed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Morelle further inquired about where the line is drawn when human authorship and AI generation interact and overlap in a resulting work. Register Perlmutter explained that this is an ongoing discussion, and the right question was if the human input determines the expressive elements of the output.

Ranking Member Morelle then shifted to right-to-repair issues and asked what factors the Office was weighing for expanding the 1201 exemptions beyond consumer products. Register Perlmutter explained that the Office is in the middle of rulemaking now, so she could not specifically articulate any position the Office might ultimately take on a particular exception, but she assured the Congressman that the Office will be looking at any evidence that may warrant an expansion of the exemption. She also noted that in the past the Office has considered a permanent exemption that is “broader than the evidence they see in any particular proposal.”

Representative Barry Loudermilk

After a brief recess, the questioning continued with Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), focusing his questions on cybersecurity and asking for an elaboration of the Copyright Office’s partnership with the Library of Congress. Register Perlmutter explained that they work extremely closely with the Library of Congress, specifically the OCIO, and that they have a shared vision of modernization and modernization timelines. Loudermilk further asked what IT modernization efforts have been made to protect electronic deposits. Perlmutter stated that to the best of her knowledge, the Office uses “state of the art” security, complying with federal standards, to protect deposits that are in transit and being held by the Office. 

Representative Loudermilk then asked about how the new IT system will benefit copyright owners and Perlmutter restated how the ECS will be easier and more user-friendly and will have controlled testing of pilot versions before official implementation. She stated that a limited pilot of the standard registration application will be available by the end of the year and that it will be much easier to upload deposits, especially in bulk, to the system. Lastly, Loudermilk asked about the timeframe and budget, and Register Perlmutter stated that they will remain within budget but will request more funding for fiscal year 2026 to keep pace with their current timeline.

Representative Terri Sewell

Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL) turned the conversation toward the Copyright Office’s efforts to digitize historical records. She asked whether the Office would be working on improving searchability and usability for historical copyright records. Register Perlmutter explained the extraction of metadata from the electronic records are the next steps. Further, Sewell asked about a timeframe for the digitization of the remaining records, to which Perlmutter responded that it would be a few years. Lastly, Sewell asked whether the Copyright Office is leveraging public and private partnerships and Perlmutter acknowledged that this was a good idea with potential.

Representative Morgan Griffith

Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA) asked for clarification about the digitization process, and whether the Copyright Office was taking analog works that have been deposited with the Office during the registration process and digitizing those. Register Perlmutter assured him that they were simply digitizing copyright registration records and not the physical copies of works.

Representative Derek Kilmer

Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) then focused the discussion on the local news media industry. He asked whether the Copyright Office specifically sought out feedback and comments on modernization from local news organizations and media, as their business models are threatened by AI. Register Perlmutter stated that there had been conversations with local news media publishers and that the Copyright Office has always maintained an “open door” policy if a particular stakeholder wants to discuss an issue. Kilmer then asked what the Copyright Office may need from Congress to help with any copyright issues that affect local journalism. Register Perlmutter mentioned that through its press publishers’ protections report, the Office determined that there were many other areas of law outside of copyright, such as antitrust and collective bargaining, where the news media publishers might find better recourse. She also mentioned that the proposed rule to create a group registration option for updates to news websites will be finalized in July.  

Representative Stephanie Bice

Following Representative Kilmer, Representative Stephanie Bice (R-OK) asked a question about the Copyright Office’s notice of proposed rulemaking that would grant the Office authority to make and transfer electronic deposit copies for Library access. Perlmutter explained that the rule specifically addresses digital deposits for copyright registration. She noted that this would allow the Library of Congress to choose from a broader selection of digital works, extending beyond just newspapers and serials. However, Perlmutter emphasized that strict access controls would be in place, such as the use only on library premises, only on dedicated terminals, only two authorized users at a time, and a prohibition of further reproduction.

Representative Bice pivoted to concerns regarding modernization, asking why the Copyright Office did not convene the Copyright Public Modernization Committee (CPMC) more frequently and highlighting the unilateral desire among CPMC members for more meetings. Register Perlmutter explained that under the regulations, the committee is set to meet publicly two times per year, but that the Office had informally met with members in between those times and that they are discussing more frequent meetings. Lastly, Bice asked if Perlmutter believed she needed more authority or directive to meet more frequently, and Perlmutter replied that it was not necessary.

Representative Mike Carey

Representative Mike Carey (R-OH) asked for an update about the ECS as it relates to the copyright registration system, noting that the Office has been working on it for over a decade. Register Perlmutter said that those modernization efforts started in 2020, but that modernization of the registration component of ECS was not a priority until the past year. Register Perlmutter explained that the Office has been moving resources and allocating more time to modernizing the registration system and plans on conducting a limited test of the new standard application by the end of this calendar year (2024).

Representative Carey then asked whether these updates would happen all at once, or in increments. Register Perlmutter responded by saying that once the updates have been fully tested, with feedback from the public, the new registration system will be implemented all at once. However, she stressed that testing will be incremental and done in phases. Lastly, Representative Carey asked about the Copyright Office’s resources, and Register Perlmutter restated that they currently have adequate funding and staff to complete the new system and retire the legacy eCO system in 2026.

Representative Laurel Lee

Lastly, Representative Laurel Lee (R-FL) focused her questions on the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and AI.  Lee inquired about the progress of the five-year redesignation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) and Register Perlmutter explained that the Office has sought public comments on the issue and that they are currently reviewing those comments. Representative Lee, then, asked how the process could be improved, and Register Perlmutter indicated that such issues would be addressed in the forthcoming report. Representative Lee also asked if the Office would be making any other significant recommendations and Register Perlmutter noted that the Office is finalizing a rule on termination rights that could have a major impact and make it into the final report.

Lee switched gears to AI and asked if copyright law is the right vehicle to tackle the digital replica challenges AI introduces. Register Perlmutter explained that there are ways copyright law can address some of the challenges, but that it does not directly protect someone’s identity. She further noted that the Copyright Office’s report will incorporate references to many different state laws, including the Lanham Act, and right of publicity laws. Lastly, Representative Lee asked how copyright law could provide an avenue for relief for harm caused by unauthorized digital replicas. Register Perlmutter responded that if someone’s identity is linked with a copyrightable work, there could be a path toward relief using copyright infringement claims related to AI ingestion.

Concluding Remarks

Chairman Steil and Ranking Member Morelle concluded the hearing by thanking Register Perlmutter and acknowledging the list of groups and stakeholders who submitted testimony and statements for the record, including the Copyright Alliance, the Coalition of Visual Artists, the Copyright Clearance Center, the News/Media Alliance, the Digital Media Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, Professional Photographers of America, PLUS Coalition, and the National Music Publishers Association, and then finally, the committee adjourned.


Overall, the hearing shed light on concrete goals that the Copyright Office has in its sights for registration modernization. The Office confirmed that a pilot version of the standard application will be released by the end of this year; that upload capabilities will be improved by the end of this year; and that the registration modernization updates will be rolled out in phases with the opportunity for public testing and feedback; and that the current eCO registration system will be retired by 2026.

Though these aspects of the registration modernization are crucial, many other issues were not addressed during the hearing that we hope the Copyright Office will provide updates on shortly. These issues include (i) prioritization of recordation modernization over registration modernization, (ii) project management and how resources are allocated between the Copyright Office and OCIO, (iii) the Government Accountability Office’s recent issuance of a bid protest decision and the effect it may have on modernization efforts, (iv) deposit requirement adjustments following the Valancourt v. Garland decision, (v) group registrations, specifically for photographers, (vi) tiered fee structures and dynamic pricing for registrations, (vii) when the Office will adopt a new rule for group registration system for updates to news websites, (viii) updates to the Office’s modernization website, and (ix) overall transparency surrounding modernization timelines and benchmarks. 

We stand ready to provide any help and feedback on the registration modernization process and to engage further with the Office to ensure that our copyright registration system truly meets the needs of all creators. Read more about other crucial updates that are needed in the new copyright registration system in the Copyright Alliance’s written testimony

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