Conspiracy Theories Run Amok Over Copyright Office Executive Changes

from the nothing-doing-here dept

Last week, we wrote about the big news in the copyright realm, where the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, removed the Register of Copyrights (the head of the Copyright Office), Maria Pallante, from her job. Technically, Hayden reassigned Pallante to a new job in the Library of Congress, but Pallante rejected that offer and resigned. While we — and some others — pointed out that this was a good opportunity to reshape the Copyright Office away from being a taxpayer-funded lobbying organization for Hollywood, some folks who support ever more draconian copyright immediately jumped on all sorts of conspiracy theories about how this was really Google somehow firing Pallante, including one site that directly had that as a headline.

To anyone who actually had knowledge of what was going on, this made no sense. Hayden is not connected to Google in any way. This is just out and out tinfoil hat conspiracy theory territory from people who see “Google” behind any policy they dislike. It seemed rather obvious that, like just about any new CEO of an organization, Hayden was clearing out some senior staff for a variety of reasons. And there was a pretty obvious big reason why Hayden would like to reassign Pallante: she has been directly and publicly advocating for Congress to move the Copyright Office outside of the Library of Congress. If you came in to run an organization and one of your direct reports was going over your head to try to transfer an entire division somewhere else, it’s likely you’d fire that person too. It’s kind of a management 101 thing.

Over the past week, in talking to a few people at the Library of Congress, or close to it, this is the basic story that came out. Hayden didn’t feel comfortable with Pallante publicly advocating against the Library of Congress, and used her role as the boss to remove her from that position. Others seem to be discovering the same thing. A report at Publisher’s Weekly notes that the conspiracy theories are bunk:

But multiple observers familiar with both the Copyright office and the library?s operations told PW that Pallante?s ouster was not necessarily rooted in any specific disagreements over copyright policy. Rather, it most likely was a matter of Hayden ?getting the Library?s house in order.? Pallante, the sources noted, has strongly urged lawmakers to remove the Copyright Office from under the purview of the Library of Congress and make it an independent agency, with the register becoming a Senate-confirmable presidential appointee.

?If Congress wants to remove the Copyright Office, it can do so,? explained one source, who did not want to be identified. ?But, for now, it is part of the Library of Congress.? The source added that Hayden couldn?t be expected to lead the Copyright Office forward with a subordinate pushing Congress for the agency’s independence at the same time. At press time, LoC officials had not yet commented

Another close observer, who also did not want to be identified, agreed and said there was no shadowy Silicon Valley plot to remove Pallante and ?jam in? a more tech industry-friendly Register, as some reports have suggested.

From what I can tell, the “tech” industry was just as surprised about this as anyone else. Even the Authors Guild, which initially rang the alarm bells is now slowly, calming down and realizing that it may have overreacted. In an update, it notes that Hayden doesn’t appear to have been taking orders from the tech industry. She also told them that she believes that the Library of Congress shouldn’t be taking a major role in policy making:

When we asked Dr. Hayden whether she intended to respect the traditional role of the Copyright Office setting policy without interference from the Library, she very clearly stated that she does not intend to weigh in on copyright law or policy. She said that policy and legislative efforts are the domain of Congress, not the Library. Her job, she explained, requires her to ensure that the Copyright Office has the technology and resources for the proper operations of the registration and recordation systems. She was sympathetic with our desire to see the Copyright Office receive the funding necessary to create a robust registration and recordation system that meets 21st-century needs.

Of course, what’s not entirely clear from that statement is if it means that the Copyright Office should also go back to its more traditional role of focusing on registering copyrights and similarly not weighing in on copyright law or policy. If she says that’s not the role for the Library of Congess, then doesn’t that also apply to the Copyright Office since it is a part of the Library?

Either way, I know it’s popular for some people to assume any conspiracy theory around “Google” must be true (and, just you watch, someone in the comments here will now try to rope this post and me into that conspiracy), but this one comes up empty once you actually look at the details. It won’t stop the conspiracy theorists, but they can spin their wheels with their tinfoil hats, whiteboards and theories about sea creatures.

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Comments on “Conspiracy Theories Run Amok Over Copyright Office Executive Changes”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

When you are paranoid you always think your unseen enemy is out to get you. Every move is a plot, every failure sabotage.

Ultra-Violet didn’t fail because it lacked logic & simplicity, Google made it fail.

CCS didn’t fail, Google paid that kid to write those 9 lines of code.

Our bought and paid for advocate in the office being removed for trying to give us our politically unanswerable appointee was Google, not because that isn’t what the office was ever meant to be or do.

Just think, if they put as much effort into giving consumers what they wanted as they did in trying to keep control over the uncontrollable they’d be making more money than Google.

I.T. Guy says:

“and, just you watch, someone in the comments here will now try to rope this post and me into that conspiracy”

Pffft… Mike. It’s not a conspiracy anymore. We all know you are Google. We know it was actually you that fired Maria Pallante so you could get a more tech friendly person in there so you and your Freeloading Band of Pirates™ can continue to erode the meager profits of the poor weak defenseless studios.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually slow it up just a little bit.

While I personally have no illusion that Mike is involved in a conspiracy it is pretty clear he has some bias in this regard.

He at least at one time maintained that a lot of people in the tech sector were not heavily involved in politics and even contradicted one of his very own articles in the process. Any tool making that claim must have dead nerves caused by a massive ball of burning bullshit behind them.

Google has a fucking revolving door to the white-house and he has willfully paid a blind eye to that more than once. So at the very least there is some willful ignorance going on here.

But yea, still a funny comment either way!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Bias” suggests a point of view that he isn’t entitled to hold. Copyright is a bargain between the public and creators. I suggest it is completely appropriate for Mike or any other member of the public to want their side of the deal.

The deal is the public via government allows creators a limited time monopoly to their work in exchange for the counter side that once that time is expired the public then has open slather to adapt and change the IP as they will.

It’s worth noting that the adapting and changing parts do not actually remove the ability for the original creator to continue to use the IP, they just have more competition.

Mickey Mouse was created in 1929. Walt Disney died in 1966. By the original terms of the agreement Mickey Mouse was developed under the public should be free to develop from the IP as of 1984, 32 years ago. Instead, the deal keeps being re-written, with the next fight expected to occur on or before 2023.

The public has held up it’s part of the bargain, actually gone well beyond what was originally agreed. It’s time for IP holders to hold up theirs.

Mike Bradley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Um … no. Creators can hardly use what has been broadcast globally by possibly the world’s biggest web presence. The supposed bump from the “free publicity” of unpaid “adapting and changing” doesn’t happen, so the “adapting and changing” helps destroy creators’ livelihoods. You might experience this yourself if you develop and publish something of your own. Independent creators can no longer expect a career, as they once could; they can pretty much only look forward to padding their resumes for their next gig.

David (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I don’t think there’s any real indication that this is tied to a lack of robust copyright enforcement, however. In fact, endless extension of copyrights and overzealous enforcement are almost certainly making it harder for small artists, because it means our media landscape is dominated by a few big players with less room for original small-time artists.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

This is just out and out tinfoil hat conspiracy theory territory from people who see "Google" behind any policy they dislike.

Tinfoil is always the way to go even when something deserves a ton of legitimate criticism. It think part of the tinfoil has to do with projection; either directly projecting behavior and motive, or picking some weird made up thing to go after because you agree with the behaviors someone or something could be legitimately criticized for. Or i suppose sometimes it is because one won’t state directly what the real issue is so one uses dogwhistles and the like which can hilariously take on a life of their own.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The terminology “tinfoil hat”, “black helicopter” and “conspiracy theory” have context that should have evolved based on actual events and actual helicopters. It is mind boggling that these are dismissive, rather than describing little known or uncomfortable to accept facts and truths. Given such a large number of them have been exposed to be factual.

Karl (profile) says:

These "theories" all come from one guy

If you read the articles, the "multiple" sources all involve Chris Castle.

Castle is the person who started and runs the Artists Right Watch website. Castle is also the person behind Music Technology Policy. Though started by David Lowery, the Trichordist site now features more content by Chris Castle than anyone else – usually reposted verbatim from Music Technology Policy (almost certainly by Castle himself). These sources were the only ones quoted in the DMN story as supporting this conspiracy theory.

And, make no mistake, Castle is definitely a conspiracy theorist. He calls Eric Schmidt "Uncle Sugar," claims that the EFF and Public Knowledge are both "shills" of Google, and consistently repeats any anti-Google story that he sees (and never retracts them when they turn out to be false). He’s the main person behind the claim that the DOJ advocated full-work licensing only because Renata Hesse recieved her marching orders from Google. (Never mind that all music users who submitted comments to the DOJ said unanimously that they believed they had always gotten full-song licensing… or that Google didn’t even submit a comment). There are plenty of other examples.

But none of this is a surprise, since he appears to be involved in media and telecom astroturfing. For example, he was a consultant for Arts+Labs, an astroturf group funded by big media and telecom companies, and chaired by Mike McCurry of "Hands Off The Internet" infamy. (Arts+Labs was a big supporter of SOPA, and it folded when its political lobbying failed.)

Essentially, all of this is just Chris Castle sock puppetry. It’s a telling failure on DMN’s part that they fell for it, and are essentially helping to spread the impression that this is more than just one guy’s conspiracy theory. Please, don’t fall for it yourself.

(As a public service, I’m going to post this as a comment on the DMN story as well.)

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