Congress Leaks Draft Bill To Move Copyright Office Out Of The Library Of Congress

from the this-is-a-BAD-idea dept

Update: The bill has now officially been introduced.

Well, we all knew this was coming, but Rep. Bob Goodlatte has been passing around a draft of a bill to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress. Specifically, it would make the head of the Copyright Office, the Copyright Register, a Presidentially appointed position, with 10-year terms, and who could only be removed by the President.

This is a bad and dangerous idea. It’s one that’s designed to give Hollywood and the recording industry even more power and control over an already deeply captured agency. As it stands now, having the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress provides at least some basic recognition of the actual intent of copyright law, as established by the Constitution to Promote the progress of science. That is, as we’ve pointed out for a long, long time, the intent of copyright is to benefit the public. The mechanism is to provide temporary monopolies to creators as an incentive, before handing the works over to the public. Yet, the Copyright Office eschews that view, insisting that the role of the Copyright Office is to expand those monopoly rights, and to speak out for the interests of major copyright holders (rarely the creators themselves).

Either way, by making this a Presidential appointment, the MPAA and RIAA know that it will give them significantly greater say over who leads the office. Right now they can (and do!) lobby the Librarian of Congress on who should be chosen, but the Librarian gets to choose. One hopes that the Librarian would take into account the larger view of copyright law, and who it’s actually supposed to benefit — and we’re hoping that the current Librarian will do so (if given the chance). But making it a Presidential appointment will mean heavy lobbying by industry, and much less likelihood that the public interest is considered.

The usual think tankers and industry folks will tell you — incorrectly — that the Copyright Office is only in the Library due to “an accident of history.” But that’s not the case. The role of both overlap dramatically — collecting, organizing and cataloging new creative works. Almost everyone agrees that the Copyright Office needs to be modernized, and that the previous Librarian failed (miserably) to do so. But because we had a bad librarian in the past is no reason to remove the Copyright Office entirely from the Library and disconnect it completely to its constitutional moorings designed around getting more creative works to the public.

Make sure to let your Congressional Representative know not to support this bill — especially if they’re members of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Goodlatte has said that he’d only propose copyright reform bills that have widespread consensus. This is not such a bill.

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Comments on “Congress Leaks Draft Bill To Move Copyright Office Out Of The Library Of Congress”

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80 Comments
morganwick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is the problem with the system of checks and balances the Founders established and why it matters that they didn’t envision the formation of parties. When Congress and the President are of the same party, Congress will happily vote away its powers to the President, but the President can veto any attempt to walk it back, and a party that has two-thirds control of both houses of Congress probably controls the White House too. It’s why we need to rethink the Constitution for what we’ve learned about political science in the intervening 200+ years, but are woefully ill-equipped to do so.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

they didn’t envision the formation of parties.

That’s not true at all. Washington was opposed to political parties, never belonged to one, and explicitly warned against them — hard to claim that he "didn’t envision" a thing that he warned against.

And every President except Washington belonged to a political party.

I think it’s probably more accurate to say they never envisioned the kind of polarization in our current political system, the likelihood that a single party would control all three branches of government, and the extent to which individuals would put the party line over individual policy beliefs or their constituents’ interests.

David says:

Thackeray to the rescue.

I mean, this reminds me so much of Vanity Fair. Just imagine Congress as Rebecca Crawley, the lobbying groups as Lord Steyne, and the American People as Rawdon Crawley.

Good old Rawdon who has a somewhat dim view of just who is paying Rebecca’s bills and baubles and is too clumsy to be kept around in high society.

The comparison, of course, breaks down once Rawdon finds Becky in compromising circumstances: she isn’t successful at explaining to him that this is how it is supposed to work and that he should be happy about it.

Also of course Lord Steyne isn’t actually stealing the money he gives to Becky from Rawdon. He’s interested in exploiting her rather than her husband.

So, well, our Congress Play is a lot more icky. We aren’t living in Victorian times where honour was formally considered more valuable than money: nowadays there is no honour but money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Civil disobedience in the Era of the Eternal Copyright is going to be interesting. Best thing to do may be to simply ignore copyrights completely. Do all of your copyright related work through Antigua.

Or maybe just sic anonymous on all of them. Because I have to tell y’all, I was sick and tired of all of the copyright BS in the 80’s, and now it has entered the realms of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

aerinai says:

Greenhouse & Open Secrets proves All

If you don’t have Greenhouse extension for Chrome, get it. It shows you that Mr. Goodlatte’s biggest donor is TV/Music/Movies… and is representing constituents in Virginia…. I don’t know of very many TV/Music/Movie producers or content that come out of Virginia. Something smells fishy, but at least now we know the cost to buy a bill is $164,000.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just put the Copyright Office inside MPAA or RIAA’s HQ already. Give all the copyright trolls enough rope to hang themselves with.
It’s a shame that a lot of people will suffer but at least they’ll (hopefully) realize some sort of compromise (other than “give us all the copyrights, forever”:P) has to be reached.
If not, well they’ll eventually get what they want anyway. Why waste more time ?

Honestly, the only real chance consumers would stand would be if we had some sort of non-profit watchdog constantly lobbying and or protesting these attempts.

Citizen boycotts work, in a pinch, for specific laws, but these assholes will just sneak what they want as soon as we stop looking.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

A 10 year term why?

At first I thought this didn’t sound all that bad, until this line:

a Presidentially appointed position, with 10-year terms, and who could only be removed by the President.

There’s a grand total of one whole position, Director of the FBI with a 10 year term.

The reason for the FBI’s 10 year term is try to insulate them from politics more (which Comey has obviously failed to do with all his recent controversial decisions in the last election, but that’s not the point here).

But why does the head of a copyright department need a 10 year term? What partisan politics are there that justifies trying to insulate them from politics? Copyright and IP isn’t a partisan issue that one party supports and other opposes.

techie1 (profile) says:

Contacted my Congressman's office today

This bill’s central idea of moving the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress is a bad idea. Especially the part of making the Office subject to a Presidential appointment for a term of 10 years! I protested the bill to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s office via the telephone. Lesson for others: Please be sure to have the receptionist/clerk at your Representative’s office to read back to you the complaint he/she writes down. It is alarming how easily the message came to be garbled!

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