As the co-chairs of the Creative Rights Caucus, we ask you to join us in supporting H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017. The bill is scheduled for a floor vote on Wed., April 26.
A strong creative economy requires a strong copyright system so that creatives can earn a living from their passion and continue to produce great works for the public to enjoy. This is not just good for creatives and those that appreciate their art. It helps the nation as a whole, since the core copyright industries are now responsible for $1.2 trillion in GDP, representing nearly 7 percent of the economy, and employ 5.5 million people.
Ordinarily one would expect that the head of a government agency responsible for overseeing such an important sector of our economy would be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Yet in an accident of history, the Copyright Office resides in the Library of Congress and the Register of Copyrights is unilaterally selected by the Librarian.
The sole reason for this state of affairs is that the Librarian of Congress in 1870 thought it would be good for copies of copyrighted works to be placed in the Library as a way of growing the collection. While this certainly makes sense, it neither requires nor justifies subordinating the role of the Register, especially in light of the growth in importance of copyright over the intervening 150 years.
H.R. 1695, a bipartisan bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers, corrects that anomaly without disrupting the inclusion of registered works in the Library’s collection. The bill creates a selection committee—composed of the Speaker, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, the Majority and Minority Leader in the House and Senate, and the Librarian of Congress to recommend potential candidates. The President then selects a nominee, which must be confirmed by the Senate.
This will not only accord the Register the importance the position deserves, it will increase accountability to Congress and give every American a voice in the selection process through their elected representatives. Congress has been considering this issue for more than four years. The time has come to take the first step in bringing the Copyright Office out of the 19th century and into the 21st century.
Judy Chu Doug Collins
Member of Congress Member of Congress