NWU Priorities for the Copyright Office

Katrina, Desiree, Jo Anne (me)

In response to invitations from the Librarian of Congress and the House Judiciary Committee, the NWU has filed recommendations for the selection of the next Register of Copyright (the official who serves under the Librarian of Congress as the head of the Copyright Office) and for Congress and the Copyright Office in reforming U.S. copyright laws and regulations. Our recommendations center on the centrality of copyright to writers and our readers:

Copyright and the Copyright Office exist “To promote the Progress of … useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors… the exclusive Right to their respective Writings.” [U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8.]

These interests – those of the public and of authors – should be paramount.

Publishers, printers, distributors, retailers, Web hosting providers, and other intermediaries and service providers can provide added value to the public and to creators of written work, but they are not the Constitutionally intended beneficiaries of copyright. Their role, and their entitlement to a say in copyright policy, should be recognized as subsidiary….

With that in mind, the key criteria for selecting the Register of Copyright should be her ability and commitment to serve the interests of the reading public and the creative community, and her independence from other influences outside the Constitutional purposes of copyright.

Similarly, whether the Copyright Office remains within the Library of Congress…, or whether it is made an independent agency, its structure and procedures need to ensure that its policies and practices are based on understanding of, and engagement with, readers and creators and the organizations that represent them….

We have attached the short list of priorities for copyright reform which was adopted by the highest decision-making body of the National Writers Union, our triennial Delegate Assembly, in August 2013, and which we have previously provided to the Judiciary Committee.

Some of the most important copyright reform issues for working writers and related sections of the Copyright Act (including issues related to Sections 411 and 412 on registration and Section 203 on reversion of rights) have not yet been addressed by the Judiciary Committee in its hearings, or by the Copyright Office in its policy studies and rulemaking….

The National Writers Union remains eager to work with the House Judiciary Committee, the Librarian of Congress, the Register of Copyright, and the Copyright Office to advance the mutual interests of writers and the reading public through the ongoing copyright reform process.

You can read our written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee hearings here, and all of the responses to the House Judiciary Committee request for feedback on its first proposal for Copyright Office reform here. The responses to the survey by the Librarian of Congress have not yet been made public.

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