Bill would make Copyright Office a standalone agency

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A bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced a bill in the House Friday that would remove the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress and make it an independent agency — a move meant, in part, to correct the deficiencies in the office’s IT.

The bill, H.R. 4241, sponsored by Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Judy Chu, D-Calif., would continue to house the Copyright Office within the legislative branch and includes technical provisions meant to help it move out of the Library. The bill also would require the head of the office to periodically conduct studies of the agency’s IT to make sure it is “meeting the needs of the copyright community, including internal and external.” The lawmakers had been shopping a draft version of the legislation since June.

As it stands, the Copyright Office must rely on the Library for its IT and several other administrative functions. But the Government Accountability Office has faulted the Library for having “serious weaknesses in its IT management, which have also hindered the ability of the Library and the Copyright Office to meet mission requirements.”

This came to a head in August when problems with the Library’s IT kicked the office’s copyright registration system offline for more than a week. The vast majority of the office’s customers register their copyrights for songs, movies and other creative works online.

Speaking with FedScoop last week, the U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante said the incident underscored the importance of having dedicated IT staff.

“I just really feel that people who work on Copyright Office IT should be in the Copyright Office, in the mission, working side by side with the other experts,” she said. Her office also released the final version of a five-year modernization plan that heavily stressed improvements to IT.

After prompting from the House Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat earlier this year, Pallante waded into the debate over how to structure the office, writing that the U.S. copyright system “would be served best by establishing an independent copyright agency to administer the law, and by designating a leader that is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.” The register is not currently a Senate-confirmed position.

Reach the reporter at whitney.wyckoff@fedscoop.com, or follow her on Twitter @WhitneyWyckoff.

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Congress, Copyright Office, Government IT News
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