ALA Slams Bid to Modernize U.S. Copyright Office

copyright office American Library Association ALA digital librariesThe American Library Association (ALA) says a bill now up for consideration in Congress does too little to address what it sees as the issues plaguing the U.S. Copyright Office.

ALA President Courtney Young says the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act doesn’t solve the issue of severe underinvestment in technological resources the agency needs to serve its mission in the digital age.

“The bill’s proposal to make the Copyright Office an independent agency does not address the longstanding problems facing the agency,” Young said in a statement released today, “specifically that the Copyright Office’s information technology systems are woefully inadequate in serving both rights holders and the public in the digital environment.”

The Copyright Office has come under fire amid a broader critique of its parent agency, the Library of Congress, its for lagging behind on crucial technological capabilities. Longtime Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced this week he is stepping down amid that criticism.

The CODE Act’s push to give the Copyright Office autonomy has been framed by advocates as one step toward resolving those issues, and earlier this month the Association of American Publishers (AAP) commended a draft that included the provision.

Speaking with Digital Book World today, Allan Adler, the trade organization’s General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs, says while the AAP agrees with the ALA that “overhauling the Copyright Office’s information technology infrastructure” is important, “giving the Register of Copyrights independent budgetary and operational authority from that of the Librarian of Congress is a common sense prerequisite.”

Alder continues, “Libraries and the other stakeholders in our copyright system have much to gain and nothing to fear from an independent office that will have the budget, personnel and operational authority necessary to do its job effectively.”

[Press Release]

ALA president calls for digital transformation of Copyright Office

June 12, 2015—WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, American Library Association (ALA) president Courtney Young responded to the introduction of the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act (CODE Act) by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Tom Marino (R-PA):

“For more than 20 years, content creators, rights holders, legislators and public users alike have acknowledged that the U.S. Copyright Office needs to modernize its technological capabilities for the 21st century. Unfortunately, the recently introduced Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act does little to address significant technology challenges impacting the U.S. Copyright Office.

“The bill’s proposal to make the Copyright Office an independent agency does not address the longstanding problems facing the agency, specifically that the Copyright Office’s information technology systems are woefully inadequate in serving both rights holders and the public in the digital environment. Much of the Copyright Office’s shortcomings were detailed in a Government Accountability Office report published in March 2015. Instead of independent authority, the Copyright Office needs resources—both in the form of funding and technical expertise—to bring it out of the typewriter age.

“Rights holders, authors, publishers, libraries and the general public nationwide rely on the robust U.S. Copyright registration and recordation system to identify the copyright status of works. Comprehensive and accurate records in digital systems that can communicate with other digital systems are necessary to handle any transaction—whether one is trying to register copyright in order to proceed with legal action or whether one is just trying to identify who holds the rights to a particular work. In addition, progress should be made immediately to build the necessary digital storage facilities for digitally-born works.

“We urge the U.S. Congress to support the investment necessary to transition the Copyright Office from a paper-based system to a digital system that uses the most effective digital technology, systems and software–to enable commerce, promote access to content, and to inspire the creators and artists of the future who wish to make use of the previous works. A successful overhaul of the Copyright Office’s information technology infrastructure cannot be achieved by securing the Copyright Office’s independence from the Library of Congress. We have a much more important problem to solve that cannot be fixed by changing the address of the Copyright Office.”

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Update: This post has been updated to include additional comments from the AAP.

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