About a month after intellectual property lawyers implored Congress to help the Copyright Office modernize its IT systems, a new report found that the agency hasn’t adequately justified the $7 million it requested for improvements.
“Specifically, it has not identified the business needs they are intended to meet, expected costs, or how they align with the agency’s strategic plan, as called for by Library IT investment management policy,” according to the Government Accountability Office report out Tuesday.
At the same time, the report is quick to acknowledge that the Copyright Office faces organizational challenges: While the Copyright Office deals in intellectual property, it falls under the purview of the Library of Congress, not the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“[T]he Library has serious weaknesses in its IT management, which have also hindered the ability of the Library and the Copyright Office to meet mission requirements,” according to the report, which was commissioned by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The $7 million was requested for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
The report also noted that the Library of Congress has not had a permanent chief information officer for more than two years. (Though, in a separate GAO report out Tuesday that also found “significant weaknesses” in the Library’s IT management, Librarian of Congress James Billington said a permanent CIO would be on board at the agency by September.)
One IT product of particular frustration is the Copyright Office’s primary registration system, Electronic Copyright Office, or eCO, the report said.
Agency staff complained that the system crashes multiple times a day, requiring the staff to restart the system or their computers, a major productivity drag. The system got low marks from external users as well. More than a third of eCO users reported in a recent survey they weren’t satisfied with the system’s ease of use.
“One respondent stated that ‘this is, hands down, the worst site I have ever had to navigate’ and noted that it took the individual 4 hours to submit the registration application,” according to the report.
In a response to GAO’s findings, Maria Pallante, U.S. register of copyrights, questioned whether it made sense to house the Copyright Office under the Library of Congress.
“[W]e should consider whether a steering committee comprised of Library managers tasked with making Library-wide decisions … is the right solution for the kind of evolution expected by copyright stakeholders,” she said.