On April 26, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act by a decisive, bipartisan vote of 378-48. The vote was met by statements of support from Representatives, creative communities, civil rights organizations, diverse creators, independent experts, industry, innovators, and more. Here’s what they are saying:
Association of American Publishers: “The “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act” recognizes the complex and critical portfolio of the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, and ensures that future Registers would have both the clear authority and appropriate accountability to perform the duties of the office. AAP supports the hundreds of lawmakers who today stated unequivocally that the Register should be appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and we agree with enactment of a ten year term that is common place in the legislative branch and especially important for a legal expert who by statute provides impartial, nuanced advice to Congress.” Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers: “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act is one product of the House Judiciary Committee’s multi-year comprehensive review of our copyright laws. This bipartisan review, which began under the tenure of the former Librarian of Congress in April 2013, has been focused on ensuring our copyright laws keep pace in the digital age and has included much discussion on the merits of giving the Copyright Office more autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress.
“While this legislation represents an important first step in the Committee’s efforts to update our nation’s copyright laws, we remain committed to working with all members and stakeholders to take additional steps to ensure the U.S Copyright Office is modernized so that it functions efficiently and effectively for all Americans.” Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):“I am pleased by the very strong vote in favor of the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act,” said Congressman Nadler. “This legislation will strengthen the Copyright Office, and make it more accountable to Congress, by turning the Register of Copyrights into a Senate-confirmed position. It is appropriate that we passed it on World IP Day, when we recognize the tremendous contribution that intellectual property laws—including copyright—make to our economy and to our creativity. This bill is the first step towards modernizing the Office for the 21st Century and providing it with the flexibility and the independence it needs to serve all members of the copyright community effectively. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers in introducing this bipartisan legislation, and I hope the Senate will pass it soon.” Copyright Alliance: “As we continue to assert, the Register of Copyrights position is essential to the U.S. economy, creativity and culture, a status that should be acknowledged by making the role a presidential appointee subject to Senate confirmation. Making the Register a presidential appointee as provided in H.R. 1695 will not only ensure that the selection process is more neutral, balanced, and transparent but it’s also critical to the continued modernization of the U.S. Copyright Office. We look forward to continued support for this issue in the Senate,” Motion Picture Association of America: “It is gratifying that an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives, today, passed H.R. 1695. Over its four-plus year genesis, this legislation has only ever been about one thing: putting the Copyright Office in a better position to serve the public and steward the $1.2 trillion creative economy that is responsible for 5.5 million American jobs. Making the Register a nominated and confirmed position recognizes the importance of the Copyright Office, increases accountability to Congress, and provides transparency to the public.” Professional Photographers of America: “H.R. 1695 makes the Register of Copyrights, who leads the United States Copyright Office (USCO), a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. HR 1695 gives the Register the autonomy to modernize the Copyright Office to suit the specialized needs of the copyright system. PPA has been activating its 30,000-member base to call or email their representatives in support of the bill.
“So much effort went into this,” says PPA CEO David Trust, “and everyone who took 30 seconds to submit their letters should feel proud about what we accomplished together. So, today is a day for smiles and congratulations. Tomorrow we start preparing for a much tougher fight in the Senate.” The Recording Academy: “The nation’s foremost copyright expert just moved a step closer from ‘government employee’ to ‘Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation.’ This important development in updating copyright laws illustrates Congress’ renewed priority of the issue. The Recording Academy thanks Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for their commitment to creators and looks forward to continued progress on copyright.”
Here’s a compilation of what people were saying leading up to the April 26 vote: Congressional Leaders Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet: “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 is a first step toward modernizing the U.S. Copyright Office and bringing much needed accountability to the Library of Congress. It has become increasingly clear that the Register of Copyrights needs greater autonomy from the Library of Congress in order to carry out its core mission.” House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.): [Markup] “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 fills a critical gap that currently exists in the selection process for all future Registers of Copyright. No Member on this Committee, nor in Congress would underestimate the importance of the copyright economy in America. The copyright economy is a key driver of our nation’s exports. Overseeing this sector is the Copyright Office, an entity whose large impact is far bigger than its small footprint.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): [Markup] “In the past, the authority of the Copyright Office to conduct rule makings has been challenged in the courts because the Register is not currently Presidentially-appointed. This bipartisan legislation would put to rest, once and for all, that question, and ensures that the Register is accountable to Congress.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.):“Since 2013, the House Judiciary Committee has been working on ways to improve the Copyright Office including making the Register a Presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed position in order to improve transparency, accountability, and efficiency at the Copyright Office.” Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27): “In a partisan world copyright policy has remained one of the truly non-partisan issues, enjoying broad support on both sides of the aisle. We should continue working down that path to ensure our nation’s Copyright Office is able to serve all stakeholders in today’s modern age.” Stakeholders Labor Groups AFL-CIO: “On behalf of our more than 10 million members, the AFL-CIO strongly believes that working people in the arts and entertainment industry stand to benefit from a well-functioning, impartial Copyright Office. By finally making the Register of Copyrights a principal officer under the Constitution, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, USCO will be able to fully exercise the various authorities granted in the U.S. Copyright Act. Furthermore, it will give the American people the opportunity to weigh in on the Register selection process every ten years through their elected officials.” Directors Guild of America: “Ensuring that there are federal government policies that promote and preserve the value of copyright and respect creators’ rights are primary concerns of our Guild. We believe empowering the Copyright Office to undertake a key role it has been tasked with by Congress — protecting creative works and those who create them — is essential to that end. The legislation … is a critical step in the right direction.” Individual Creators American Society of Media Photographers: “HR 1695 would require the Register of Copyrights to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. If enacted, it would be an important step in providing much-needed autonomy to the United States Copyright Office … We stand ready to continue to work with Congress as you seek to strengthen the U.S. Copyright Office and to enable the copyright system to afford the relevant protections for all creators contributing to the U.S. position as a leader of the 21st century global digital economy.” Authors Guild: “The Authors Guild thanks and applauds Reps. Goodlatte and Conyers for recognizing that by introducing this bill, which paves the way to Copyright Office modernization, the Copyright Office will be able to better serve the creative sector.” Copyright Alliance: “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act represents an important first step in the efforts to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office. Few government offices are more essential to the economy, jobs and creativity in the United States than the U.S. Copyright Office. This bill, which is the result of over four years of copyright policy hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee, demonstrates the growing importance and the need for a more prominent role for the position of Register of Copyrights. Making the Register position a presidential appointment confirmed by the Senate has the additional benefit of ensuring a more balanced and neutral selection process compared to the existing process, which does not require any direct input from the Administration or Congress.” Copyright Office Modernization Through an Artist’s Lens: “[T]he Copyright Office’s problems are a de facto regressive tax—the smaller the creator, the more adversely they are impacted. Congress should swiftly pass HR 1695, thereby taking an important first step towards fixing these problems. By ensuring the Register has the autonomy necessary to begin implementing operational reforms and continuing to provide impartial advice, Congress will help ensure that visual artists and all creators can continue creating works that contribute to our economy and help shape our society in the digital age.” Creators Richard Gladstein, Jason Kliot, and David O’Ferrall: “Let’s be clear – the centerpiece of any strong copyright system is a strong Copyright Office. We make films, we tell stories, and we rely on a strong copyright system to make a living. This matters to us.” Gospel Music Association: “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695) by no means removes power from [the Librarian of Congress’] historic appointment and in fact, designates the Librarian as a member of the selection panel for the next Register. This legislation simply formalizes a process that should be transparent and ensures a qualified, experienced leader on copyright policy that is vitally important to protecting creators and their works, both sacred and secular. GMA urges the passage of this bipartisan bill.” North American Nature Photography Association: “The current, antiquated copyright system is not serving the needs of small image creators like those in our membership and must be modernized. If enacted, HR 1695 would help provide much-needed autonomy to the United States Copyright Office and help ensure that such modernization occurs as quickly and efficiently as possible. This change is long overdue.” Tech Groups Oracle: “Oracle strongly supports the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act and urges its rapid adoption. We look forward to working with Chairmen Grassley and Goodlatte, Ranking Members Feinstein and Conyers, Senator Leahy, and other members of the Judiciary Committees to move this bill forward and to take additional steps to adopt other important Copyright Office reforms outlined in the House Judiciary Committee’s December 8, 2016 policy proposal. Together, these reforms will provide the operational independence, stable funding, and modern IT infrastructure that the Copyright Office needs to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.” Software & Information Industry Association: “The elevation of the Register to a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee reflects a bi-partisan recognition of both the importance of the copyright industries to the U.S. economy, and the need for Congress to have independent copyright advice. It is the first, much-needed step towards Copyright Office Modernization.” Trade and Industry American Intellectual Property Law Association: “AIPLA favors action to appropriately modernize the U.S. Copyright Office (the “Office”), enabling it to meet the ever-expanding needs and expectations of Congress, its stakeholders, and the public. AIPLA also believes that it is key to these modernization efforts that the Office be led by an individual who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. AIPLA supports a strong and balanced copyright system, and it is imperative that the Office is appropriately managed and directed.” Association of American Publishers: “AAP has advocated for this legislative change throughout the Copyright Review process which began in 2013, as it reflects the legally complex and economically important portfolio of the Register as head of the United States Copyright Office and relative to similar positions across the government. The Register’s office administers the Nation’s copyrights laws and provides expert legal and policy support to the Congress and other government officials. H.R. 1695 is an excellent first step that will pave the way for other long overdue improvements to the agency’s authority and infrastructure.” Letter signed by 52 creative and innovative companies and organizations: “We write to express support for H.R. 1695, The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 … Copyright is critical to the U.S., with core copyright industries contributing over $1.2 trillion to the U.S. GDP and employing more than 5.5 million U.S. workers. The Copyright Office, headed by the Register of the Copyrights, plays a central role in helping Congress develop copyright policy. Making the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate reflects the growing importance of copyright to our economy and culture, and treats the head of the Office like other officials with oversight over similarly significant industries.” Motion Picture Association of America: “It’s time to modernize the Copyright Office, which includes putting the Register – a critical steward of the Constitutionally-enshrined principle of copyright – on equal footing with fellow appointees who oversee similarly significant and vital industries. Importantly, the legislation will enable the American people and all interested parties to provide input through their elected officials into the selection of the Register. Once this targeted legislation is enacted, Congress will be able to focus on the broader task of modernizing the Copyright Office.” National Association of Broadcasters: “NAB thanks Chairmen Goodlatte and Grassley, Ranking Members Conyers, Feinstein and Leahy, and their cosponsors on the bipartisan introduction of legislation to make the Register of Copyrights subject to the Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation process. As representatives of both significant owners and users of copyrighted material, NAB supports passage of this bill and will continue to work with lawmakers on broader efforts to modernize the copyright office.” News Media Alliance: “The important position of Copyright Register impacts our members’ news media content, which must be protected by our copyright laws that are enacted by Congress pursuant to the United States Constitution. Our hope is that this is the first of many proposals to reform laws and regulations so as to better reward the creators of high quality content that voters and consumers rely upon.” Recording Industry Association of America: “We agree with the respective leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that the Register of Copyrights is an immensely important position both to creators and the economy. Look no further than the fact that the copyright industries contribute more than $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. The appointment of the head of the United States Copyright Office should therefore be nominated by the President and subject to a thorough Senate confirmation process — just as the head of the Patent and Trademark Office is — to ensure that he or she is ready to serve as the guardian of the world’s most important copyright system. This bill sets the course to do just that, and we fully support it.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Innovative and creative industries are encouraged by Congress’ commitment to the ongoing process to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office. The office plays a critical role in fostering American creativity and innovation: copyright-intensive industries support 5.6 million jobs in the U.S. alone. It is extremely important that Congress continue its work on office modernization going forward in order to provide the office with the right leadership and IT capabilities to better serve the American people and companies. We applaud congressional leaders on the introduction of this bipartisan bill as an important first step in this process, and we will continue to work with them as they seek to strengthen and improve our nation’s Copyright Office.” Diverse Creators and Organizations American Black Film Festival Founder & CEO Jeff Friday: “I urge you to swiftly enact this important legislation, which is a vital first step towards modernizing the US Copyright Office (USCO) … As the Founder and CEO of Film Life—a company as focused on advocating for diversity as its ‘bottom line,’ that produces groundbreaking events and television programming including the American Black Film Festival (ABFF)—I am keenly aware of the important role copyright law plays in fostering the marketplace for creative works. I am also keenly aware of the important role the USCO plays in administering copyright law, and how the Office is struggling to keep pace in the digital age.” Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership: “Creation and production of new technology and content means a significant amount of valuable intellectual property is being created, which is protected and monetized by copyrights. If creators can’t easily register their copyrights at the Copyright Office—and people wishing to license, say, that photo or song or other content for their web site or commercial or book, the creators and audiences lose out. More fundamentally, if the Copyright Office is not in a position to advocate for strong copyright policy, creators won’t be able to derive benefit from their hard work, even when people do find it, and won’t be able to continue creating. To put it plainly, copyright should provide meaningful protections to creators and the Copyright Office should help facilitate the digital marketplace for copyrighted works.” MANA—A National Latina Organization: “Programmers large and small need a Copyright Office that can be heard. We were lucky with the FCC proceeding that the Copyright Office stood up and people listened. We may not be so lucky next time … Please support H.R. 1695 as if your favorite show depends on it. In some ways, it might.” Independent Organizations and Voices American Conservative Union: “As we said previously in comments to the House Judiciary Committee ‘[w]e support Congress … mak[ing] the Register of Copyrights a Presidentially nominated, Senate confirmed position’, which HR 1695 would do. We believe that the essential role of government is to protect life, liberty and property. That is why a fundamental bulwark of ACU’s core values is property rights—a notion understood by the Founders at the dawn of the Republic … We can think of no better way to recognize the contributions of copyright to the economy than by finally ascribing to the position of Register an importance commensurate with the sector it oversees.” Former Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman and Marybeth Peters: “We support this legislation because it accords the Office of the Register the respect it deserves as steward of copyright policy and the creative economy. It also gives Congress a formalized role in selecting its statutorily designated copyright advisor, improves accountability, and increases transparency by allowing citizen input into the selection of the Register through their elected officials.” Independent Women’s Forum: “We’re excited that the House is taking steps to set free the Copyright Office from the thumb of the Library of Congress. It’s been well-documented that the Library of Congress has neglected the Copyright Office, for example failing to manage the IT investments promised to the office years ago. When the Library’s IT system crashed for over a week, it took down the Copyright Office’s IT system as well leading to a loss of $650,000 in fees and causing major issues. The Copyright Office needs autonomy to better serve its customers, so this move by Congress is much-needed and it comes at a critical time.” International Center for Law & Economics: “It is time, or past time, to establish the proper foundations for the operation of the Copyright Office in light of its economic and cultural significance. It is also past time to rely on legacy processes and traditions that ill serve US interests in a well-functioning and modern copyright system. The legislation … will go a long way towards establishing a neutral administrator of the nation’s copyright registration system, and we wholeheartedly support it.” Mister Copyright: “It’s imperative the next Register be subject to the same processes used to select the leaders of equally important government agencies. Only when the value of the Copyright Office is recognized and its infrastructure and operations updated can the system begin to modernize and keep up with the creative culture it serves.” Music Tech Policy: “Historically, the Copyright Office has always been part of the Library of Congress and the Librarian of Congress appointed the Register of Copyrights. That might have made sense at the dawn of the Republic, but it hasn’t made sense for a very long time.” Petition Signed by Almost 32,000 Consumers: “We NEED you to support H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, by signing this petition. Congress will vote soon, and we need YOUR voice to get it passed … Why does this matter? Because the creative communities deserve a modern and independent Copyright Office. It has taken four years to get us to this point. Now is the time to make this the law of the land.” The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste: “The Register of Copyrights holds a position of high responsibility and plays a key role in protecting intellectual property rights. Rather than continuing to be a direct hire of the Librarian of Congress, the Register of Copyrights should be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. H.R. 1695 makes that much-needed adjustment to the appointment process for the Register, and should be followed up with legislation to further modernize the U.S. Copyright Office.” Third Way: “[T]he core copyright industries—those primarily engaged in creating, producing, distributing, and exhibiting copyrighted works—now contribute more than $1.2 trillion to the country’s GDP and employ 5.5 million people. But problems with its antiquated registration and record systems, as well as multiple priorities and scarce resources at the Library of Congress where it is housed, continue to hold the Copyright Office back. This bill is an important first step to bring the Copyright Office into the 21st century and promote creativity, innovation, investment, and jobs.” Responding to the Critics Artists of Color Respond to Critics of HR 1695: “As artists of color, we find it deeply offensive that opponents of this bill have attempted to recast their anti-creators’ rights goals into a smear campaign against its sponsors and supporters, insinuating that the legislation is about the race and gender of the current Librarian of Congress. The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act is co-authored by the Dean of the House and the Congressional Black Caucus, Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, and supported by Congressman John Lewis. Their lifelong and unshakeable commitment to civil rights is a historical fact and should be honored and respected, not opportunistically and baselessly questioned just to score a few empty political points. We would be the first to speak out against prejudice or bias anywhere – in business, culture, the arts, or politics. But here, we know these charges are false. The bill has nothing to do with the current Librarian at all – in fact, these reform proposals pre-date her appointment. Nor does this bill have anything to do with the former Register of Copyrights. We are grateful for her tireless efforts and advocacy on behalf of working musicians and find it appalling that some have engaged in efforts to drag her record through the mud to defeat these reforms. And certainly the bill has nothing to do with the current President – once again, these proposals to modernize the Copyright Office long pre-date his election. It is the height of cynicism for bill opponents to attempt to ride on the powerful coattails of the “RESIST” movement by falsely wrapping this bipartisan pro-artist, pro-creator legislation in the controversies surrounding the President, especially in light of his proposal for massive cuts to funding for the arts. In our view, misleading the President’s critics by leveraging fear into opposition for a non-controversial proposal like this ultimately undermines and disrespects our movement.” Bay Area Musicians: “Copyright law and its interpretation for the United States Congress are crucial aspects of our economy. The Copyright Office is much more than a simple register of creative works, the Register has become the most trusted advisor to Congress on rapidly changing issues. The selection process for the leader of the Copyright Office should reflect the important place copyright now holds for the U.S. economy.” Former Rep. Howard Berman Responding to Critics of HR 1695: “Claiming, for example, that former Register Pallante had done nothing on IT modernization rings hollow when it was Pallante who initiated and implemented a public consultation process, which led to publication of the most forward-looking IT modernization plan in the history of the Copyright Office.
The Library has thus far blocked implementation of that plan. While GAO reports have catalogued IT shortcomings at both the Library and the Copyright Office, these reports acknowledge that the problems at the Copyright Office are relatively few. Indeed the GAO has concluded these problems stem from the much larger, fundamental problems with the Library IT department, to which the Copyright Office is beholden.” The Illusion of More Responding to Critics of HR 1695: “The Copyright Office is not a ‘giant database of creative works.’ The complex, consultative function on copyright policy provided by the CO is an essential role performed by dozens of professionals with vastly different expertise than librarians. And both copyright experts and policymakers have known this for a long time.” The Illusion of More Responding to EFF misinformation about the Copyright Office: “Okay. I’m not remotely surprised that the EFF & Co. don’t like the bill H.R. 1695 to make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee rather than an employee of the Librarian of Congress. And I’m way not surprised that they’ve written a post which only thinly veils this bill as a power grab by the Trump administration. This despite the fact that the proposal dates back, on paper, to at least 2014 and well before that in general discussion among copyright experts. I won’t repeat the historic context I’ve already written to explain why this legislative move makes sense, but instead I have selected some choice pull-quotes from the EFF’s post because, well…I just can’t help myself.” The Illusion of More: “the organizational placement of the USCO under the ambit of the LOC is antiquated, and it would be just as antiquated no matter who occupies the White House or controls Congress. Regardless of what some critics have claimed, it really is a coincidence of history that the Register’s initially-clerical role evolved out of changes at the Library that began under President Lincoln. Because the USCO has long been the nation’s agency of authority on copyright law—which is estimated to support over $1 trillion of GDP—it simply makes sense that the Office function as a separate agency from the Library, and with the Register appointed in the same manner as the Librarian.”