By Jane Halperin and Sean Fitzgerald
As most of you already know, the United States Copyright Office, which is a part of the Library of Congress, is the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the U. S. and, as a service unit of the Library of Congress, provides copyright policy advice to Congress.
What you may not know is that at the request of Congress, the Copyright Office advises and assists Congress in the development of national and international copyright policy, drafts legislation and prepares technical studies on copyright related issues, which makes it pretty important entity to have on our side as creators of copyrightable material.
Last month the newly appointed Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, took the unusual step of removing Maria Pallante from her position as Register of Copyrights without notice to Ms. Pallante and without consultation with Congress.
NANPA, along with other members of a visual artists group, had been working closely with Ms. Pallante and her staff on copyright law, upholding copyright principles and helping to find ways to modernize the copyright system.
The Copyright Office itself, along with a number of Congressional committee members , expressed their displeasure at this turn of events and urged the Librarian to work with them in selecting the next Register. Since then, Dr. Hayden has created a Survey Monkey poll to help “inform development of the knowledge, skills and abilities” to look for in the next Register.
Many visual arts groups and small creators are afraid that without substantial input from photographers, this Survey might be overwhelmed by advocates of a free internet and end up weakening copyright protections.We have seen this happen before with proposed copyright protection bills, which were ultimately defeated by those who believe they are entitled to use our work without permission, credit or compensation.
Therefore, NANPA urges you to take the survey ASAP, but in any event prior to the January 31, 2017 deadline.
Since it is very likely that very few of us have given much thought to the qualities that are important for a Register of Copyrights, we have provided some model responses to the questions, thanks in very part to input from the Copyright Alliance.
It is expected that there will be tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of responses by those favoring a Register who is far less understanding of , or sympathetic to, our rights. If we have any chance of success in keeping copyright protection strong we urge you to participate and make your voices heard. We also ask that you encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.
Feel free to add, subtract, or modify the responses to reflect your own view, keeping in mind that we need a Register who supports our needs rather than the needs of the Library of Congress.
MODEL RESPONSES TO THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS’ REGISTER OF COPYRIGHTS SURVEY.
- What are the knowledge, skills and abilities you believe are the most important for the Register of Copyrights?
The next Register of Copyrights must:
- Have significant knowledge of, experience in and a strong commitment to importance of copyright law.
- Have a substantial background in representing the interests of creators of copyrightable works.
- Be dedicated to both a robust copyright system and to the Copyright Office itself.
- Recognize the important role that creators of copyrighted works play in maintaining our nation’s financial wellbeing.
- Possess a deep appreciation for the special challenges facing individual creators and small businesses in protecting their creative works.
- Possess a keen understanding of, and a strong commitment to, preserving the longstanding and statutorily based functions of the Copyright Office, especially its role in advising the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on domestic and international copyright issues.
- Be someone who has the solid support of the copyright community.
- What should be the top three priorities for theRegister of Copyrights?
The top three priorities for the Register of Copyrights are:
- To continue the traditional and critical role of the Register as a forceful advocate for both a vibrant copyright system and a strong Copyright Office that works closely with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in promoting a strong and effective copyright law.
- To commit to moving quickly to modernize the Copyright Office with a special focus on updating and making registration simpler and more affordable.
- To work with Congress to achieve enactment of legislation creating a small claims process to provide individual creators with a viable means of protecting their creative efforts.
- Are there other factors that should be considered?
To the extent possible, the views of those whose works are protected by copyright and the views of the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees be given great deference in the selection of the next Register.