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Don’t Trump the Library of Congress

Copyright bill an affront to Librarian, will create dysfunction and delay modernization efforts

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Washington, April 24, 2017 | Peter Whippy (2022253072) | comments

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued the following statement today in opposition to H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, a bill expected to be considered in the House of Representatives this week:

“Despite the rushed manner in which this bill has been brought to the floor, there is absolutely no coherent rationale advanced as to how it will improve the administration of the Copyright office. Instead, this bill will only harm the public good, create a dysfunctional relationship between the Library of Congress and the Register of Copyright, and serve to delay Copyright modernization. 

“First, Removing Dr. Hayden’s ability to appoint the Register of Copyrights means she will be unable to hold employees accountable and creates uncertainty and ambiguity in the chain of command between the Librarian and Register of Copyrights.

“The previous Register of Copyrights was removed after a Library of Congress Inspector General report found the Copyright Office not only wasted six years and nearly $12 million but hid this information from Congress, falsified information in reports to the Library, and submitted fake budget numbers for annual appropriations requests.

“Dr. Hayden took appropriate steps to remove the Register responsible for this mismanagement. This bill would prevent Dr. Hayden from removing or ensuring accountability in any future Register by making the Register answerable only to the President – a fundamental change in the relationship between Librarian and Register.

“Second, and most fundamental to the operation of the Copyright Office, this legislation will harm and delay much-needed modernization efforts by making the Register a Presidentially appointed position. Currently, there is a backlog of 495 Appointee positions that have not even been nominated. This not only will delay effective administration of the Copyright Office, but also puts the efficiency gains made by the Library at risk. Under current modernization plans, the Library believes it can speed up the modernization plan by almost two years and save significant amounts of money. Those plans depend on an active Register of Copyright who is compliant and accountable to the Librarian. The long delay created by this bill in needing Senate confirmation of a Register will only harm these efforts.

“Finally, the bill is a clear affront to the first female Librarian of Congress. Dr. Carla Hayden is not only one of the most highly qualified Librarians ever to serve, but has also worked aggressively and in good faith to pull the Library and Copyright office into the 21st century. I find it deeply disturbing that for the first time in history, a female and a person of color is the Librarian of Congress, and for the first time in history, Congress would take away her power in order to give it to Donald Trump. While this does not point to motive, it is a distressing fact nevertheless.

“This bill is a vote of ‘no confidence’ in a Librarian who is aggressively pulling the Library and Copyright Office into the 21st century and, by all evidence, justifiably reassigned an ineffective and negligent Register. It will only serve to delay Copyright Office modernization, harm the public, harm content creators, increase tension between the Library and Copyright Office, and harm Copyright Office employees.”

Lofgren’s dissenting views on the Judiciary Committee Report of H.R. 1695 can be found here.

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