Copyright Office Might Become More Political With New Bill
Mar 29, 2017 02:56 PM EDT
House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have introduced a bill that would tremendously change the way the Register of Copyrights is picked. It transfers the appointment process from the hands of the Librarian of Congress into the hands of Congress and the President, which could bring real consequences for future innovation and creativity.
The "Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017" would require the President to appoint the head of the Copyright Office and the Senate to confirm the selection, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It would also authorize the President to remove the Register, which would make the Register's appointment process more democratic - but perhaps captive of special interests.
The Copyright Office is responsible for providing advice to Congress, and "information and assistance" to other federal government entities. However, it is not entitled to applying copyright law for work qualification.
The Copyright Office has played an increasingly important role in policymaking but it has not been a neutral advocate, according to Public Knowledge. In fact, it has repeatedly forwarded policy proposals and legal analyses that favor the interests of a particular group - thus, going from being a neutral expert to a political player.
With this concern in mind, the bill would help mitigate this effect by making this Register more accountable to the public. However, in practice, though, it could be designed to do something else - perhaps, allowing powerful incumbent interests to use their lobbying power to control the increasingly politicized Copyright Office.
In sum, there will be a Register and a Copyright Office, that is accountable only to the President, accompanying the special interests that will help get them approved in the first place. The outcome of turning the Office into an independent regulator and policymaker will most likely cause an inevitably accelerated politicization of the Copyright Office.