UPDATED, 1:59 PM: The House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly to pass a Hollywood-blessed bill to require that the head of the Copyright Office be nominated by the president and subject to Senate confirmation. The Register of Copyrights post currently is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The vote — taken not coincidentally on World IP Day — was 378-48, and some Hollywood groups applauded its passage after multiple showbiz guilds had cheered its introduction last month. The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 now heads to the Senate. (Read details of the bill below.)
“It is gratifying that an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives today passed H.R. 1695,” said Chris Dodd, a former U.S. senator who now heads the MPAA. “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.”
Said Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the nonprofit 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.”
PREVIOUSLY, March 28: Hollywood’s actors union has weighed in on a bill introduced in Congress last week that would give Donald Trump and all future presidents the authority to appoint the head of the U.S. Copyright Office has received the endorsement of the DGA and MPAA. The post currently is appointed by the Librarian of Congress.
The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 would require that the head of the Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights, to be nominated by the president and subject to confirmation by the Senate. It also would limit the Register to a 10-year term that would be renewable by another presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.
“As the nation’s largest labor union representing more than 160,000 media artists, we strongly believe that our members stand to benefit from a well-functioning, impartial Copyright Office,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement today. “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. This government department is too often overlooked, especially considering its role in our nation’s thriving creative economy. The core U.S. copyright industries contribute more than $1.2 trillion dollars to the GDP and employ more than 5.5 million workers.”
“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,” the DGA said in a statement. “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 introduced today is a critical step in the right direction.”
Chris Dodd, the former senator who is Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, also weighed in today:
“The MPAA applauds the introduction in the House of bipartisan legislation making the Register of Copyrights a position nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The existing structure was created more than 120 years ago. Since then, the American creative economy has seen exponential growth – and now employs more than 5.5 million U.S. workers, while contributing more than $1.2 trillion to GDP.
“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. We thank House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, all the original cosponsors, as well as Senate Judiciary Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Senator Leahy for their leadership.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) introduced the bill in the House today. They issued a joint statement along with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee member Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
“We are pleased to join together in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to make important and necessary improvements to the selection process for the position of Register of Copyrights,. We remain absolutely committed to working on modernizing the Copyright Office. Reforms being considered include public advisory committees, improvements to Copyright Office systems for data inputs and outputs, and copyright ownership transparency. However, time is of the essence when it comes to the selection process for a new Register of Copyrights.
“America’s creativity is the envy of the world and the Copyright Office is at the center of it. With the current Register serving only on an acting basis, now is the time to make changes to ensure that future Registers are transparent and accountable to Congress. We must ensure that any new Register is a good manager and fully qualified to lead and make this office more operationally effective as he or she continues to directly advise Congress on copyrights. The next Register of Copyrights should be dedicated to serving all stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem.”
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