ICYMI – The Copyright Office Belongs In The Library Of Congress


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The Copyright Office Belongs In The Library Of Congress

“Maintaining the traditional connection between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is important…because it recognizes the special role copyright plays in promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all: the Library’s own most fundamental mission.”

WASHINGTON—A report released from the American Library Association (ALA), “Lessons From History: The Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress,” outlines compelling historical details on why the U.S. Copyright Office is located within Library of Congress. While some critics have referred to the Copyright Office’s placement within the Library as an “accident” and have made concerted efforts to relocate it, Congress has repeatedly rejected these proposals over the years, recognizing the vast benefits of the centralized location within the Library, especially during an ongoing time of IT modernization.

Below are excerpts of the report. To read ALA’s blog post on the issue, click here.

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“Some commentators have described the placement of the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress as primarily an accident of history. They argue that the Copyright Office never needed to be in the Library of Congress in the first place and should be moved out now. In fact, the centralization of copyright administration in the Library of Congress in 1870 was a logical, considered decision made not only to benefit the Library of Congress through the deposit system, but also to streamline the copyright registration process by centralizing its activities. While the U.S. Congress has made a number of revisions to copyright law since 1870, including establishment of the Copyright Office in 1897, it has preserved copyright’s original connection to the Library of Congress. The progress that has been made by the Library of Congress in modernizing its information technology systems demonstrates that this special relationship can prosper in the digital age.

“Certainly, the benefits of the 1870 Act to the Library, and consequently to nation as a whole, were considerable. The increase in deposits allowed the Library of Congress to become the largest library in the country and worthy of serving as the nation’s library. However, the reasoning behind the move was not limited to helping the Library build its collection. The change vastly simplified the copyright registration and deposit process by consolidating copyright into one organization. …

“Since copyright was first centralized in the Library of Congress in 1870, copyright law has undergone multiple revisions. Yet despite making numerous other changes to the law over time, including major revisions in 1909 and 1976, Congress has preserved copyright’s consolidation in the Library of Congress. An examination of legislative history confirms that Congress has on multiple occasions considered the question of where the Copyright Office should be located and has rejected proposals to move it or to change its relationship to the Library of Congress. …

“Little would be gained by moving the Office, and a great deal would be lost, particularly in terms cost savings and coordinating the modernization process. The progress toward critically needed modernization that has been made so far could be erased, and future such efforts would likely be stalled, slower, less efficient, and more expensive. Further, maintaining the traditional connection between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is important both because it honors a cherished relationship of more than a century and because it recognizes the special role copyright plays in promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all: the Library’s own most fundamental mission.”

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