·  by Mario Trujillo

Tech groups question plans for independent copyright agency

Originally Posted On: Uncategorized

A coalition of technology groups is cautioning Congress against spinning off the Copyright Office into an independent agency, saying a strong case hasn’t been made.

The Re:Create coalition on Wednesday said no one has put forward a convincing explanation that the office’s current technological deficiencies would be corrected if it left its current home in the Library of Congress.

“The diverse undersigned groups all agree that the case has not been made for transforming the Copyright Office into an independent agency,” the group wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee. “Specifically, there has yet to be any explanation of how that would somehow resolve the information technology issues within the office, or enable the Office to be properly responsive to the public.”
The coalition is made up of advocacy groups like Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Library Association, as well as tech trade groups, which represent some of the largest companies in the industry.

The letter came on the day of the retirement of Librarian of Congress James Billington, who has served in the position since the late 1980s. Some in Congress have pushed to limit the tenure of future librarians.

The placement of the office has been a contentious issue. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the draft proposal earlier this year, arguing the office needs more autonomy to bring it into the modern age. But the lawmakers felt slighted when their proposal was not embraced by more in the tech community, and they felt some flipped on the issue.

Groups such as the Software & Information Industry Association and the Motion Picture Association of America have supported the move. And the lawmakers also believed The Internet Association was on board. But when the draft bill was released, the large tech trade group said “wholesale changes” need to be made before moving on the agency’s independence.

The Re:Create coalition, however, continued on Wednesday to press for a series of technology upgrades at the Copyright Office. It argued that Congress’s current review and the retirement of Billington is a prime opportunity.

“In this digital age, we agree there is a clear need to upgrade and modernize the Copyright Office and view the upcoming appointment of a new Librarian of Congress for the first time in three decades as an opportunity for just such potentially transformative change,” the letter reads. “We believe that reforms both to improve the process of registering copyrights and to improve the transparency and accessibility of this information to the public are crucial.”