Copyright Office’s systems offline for a week and counting

Copyright catalogs at the Library of Congress, located in the James Madison Memorial Building, Washington D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

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The Copyright Office’s registration system has been offline since last Friday, making it impossible for intellectual property lawyers to file copyrights online.

“The Copyright Office’s online copyright registration system, eCO, remains offline until further notice,” according to a post on the office’s website Friday. It adds that the Library of Congress, which manages the office’s IT, has not provided a timetable for restoration of service, and that copyright applicants could continue to file paper forms while the system is down.

The system went down after a scheduled power outage at the Library of Congress’ James Madison building. When the power went back on, the Library was unable to restore access.

“We regret the inconvenience to our users and are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible while maintaining the integrity of the systems,” Library spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg said in an email. “I would add that efforts continue around the clock to return the affected systems to service.”

Other Library websites — including the site for the annual National Book Festival, to be held in the capital Saturday — are also offline, she said.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office slammed the Library’s oversight of the Copyright Office’s technology, saying “the 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.” And in April, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante told House Judiciary Committee lawmakers that the office needed the authority to hire its own IT staff and manage its systems.

“The IT system being divorced from the Copyright Office has been a terrible model,” she said at the time.

Indeed, Copyright Office staff and private industry alike have complained about its systems. During a hearing earlier this year, software industry and intellectual property law representatives said the office’s aging IT threatened the country’s innovation. Mark MacCarthy, senior vice president of public policy of the Software and Information Industry Association, said in an email that the incident understored the need for IT modernization.

“[T]he Copyright Office is too essential to our global digital economy to share an IT system with the library – it needs its own IT system and support staff so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who have been circulating a draft bill that would move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and make it an independent agency, both said the outage highlights the need for their legislation.

“The unfortunate and costly outage at the Copyright Office is as clear a demonstration as any of the need for a more modern infrastructure for this crucial office. The Copyright Office needs the tools and ability to maintain oversight over its own systems,” said Chu in an emailed statement.

Marino agreed. “I hope this is fixed as soon as possible and ensure there are no repeat failures at this scale. Too many people and organizations depend and rely on the office on a day to day basis, and our priority should be ensuring their needs are accommodated above all else,” he said in a separate emailed statement.

The news of the outage was originally reported by FCW.

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Congress, Copyright Office, Government IT News
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