House Judiciary Approves Bill on Copyright Office Picks

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By Mike Wilczek

President Donald Trump would nominate the head of the Copyright Office from a list of candidates recommended by congressional leaders and the librarian of congress under a bill the House Judiciary approved March 29.

The committee approved the measure, by chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), on a 27-1 vote. California Democrat Zoe Lofgren voted against the bill.

The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695) would empower the president to nominate the register of copyrights for a 10-year term, subject to Senate confirmation.

The committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) to give Congress a greater role in the selection process. Under the amendment, a seven-member panel would be established to propose at least three candidates for the office.

The panel would include the speaker of the House, the Senate president pro tempore, the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, and the librarian of congress.

Not Carte Blanche

Jackson Lee said the president should not be given carte blanche to nominate the register, because the Library of Congress is housed within the legislative branch.

The proposed process is not unprecedented. The comptroller general, who heads the Government Accountability Office, is a legislative branch position where the president selects the nominee from a list of candidates selected by a congressional commission.

Currently, the register of copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress, with no congressional review. The sudden removal of the previous register of copyrights, Maria A. Pallante, from her position in the fall by recently appointed Librarian of Congress Carla D. Hayden, alarmed copyright holders and some lawmakers. Industry players and Judiciary Committee members saw Pallante as an effective administrator and advocate for the Copyright Office’s priorities and needs.

Content creators, as well as copyright licensees, also have been urging Congress to give the Copyright Office the resources and autonomy to modernize, especially to improve the ability to search registration information.

Goodlatte’s bill would not remove the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress, which has been proposed in other legislation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Text of bill available at http://src.bna.com/njx.

Text of the Jackson-Lee amendment available at http://src.bna.com/nss.

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