Freedom of expression, meaning bloggers too, alert

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This is for Americans as next Tuesday a bill changing how the Copyright Register is hired will pass.  Whether you choose to support or protest it to your Senator or do nothing, I think it is important as writers that we know about it. While I don’t necessarily want the Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office to become a presidential appointee with the President being allowed to fire them at will, the current ability for the Librarian of Congress to unilaterally remove someone from that position is also troubling considering how important that job is.

Next Tuesday, a Senate bill will remove “hiring authority of the Copyright Register from the Librarian of Congress to the President”.  However, a recommendation list of three persons will be given to the president by a panel composed of the Librarian of Congress, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Leader, and the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate . It also grants the current President the right to fire the current Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office at any time.There would be a term limit of ten years that can be renewed upon approval.

The impetus for this was when the newly appointed Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden within a few weeks of taking office removed the then Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, who had been in that position for years.  The Author’s Guild and others were unhappy about the sudden removal. The Author’s Guild wrote abut what Pallante accomplished during her tenure and why they feel the Copyright Office should be separate from the Library of Congress here.

The Author’s Guild explained a change Pallange pushed for which I think is important given the costs of lawyers (paste from their article) : “Pallante led the Office in a comprehensive study and then a recommendation to create a small claims tribunal, which would allow authors and other creators to bring small infringement claims inexpensively, without having to hire a lawyer. Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA) have already introduced legislation to implement the recommendations, and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) has indicated that she might as well.”

There were some problems with Pallante’s tenure that the Author’s Guild did not address like her controversial support of the Stop Online Privacy Act and having spent $12 million on a failed computerized system to update the copyright office. In 2016, Pallante was removed and Karyn Temple Claggett, an Associate Register, was appointed Acting Register of Copyrights.  Pallante had wrote in a letter to congressman John Conyers Jr. that the Copyright Office should not longer be in under the Library of Congress. She wrote a paper arguing it should be it’s own agency to meet the needs of the 21st century.  Whether it was her advocacy for departmental independence or other reasons, she was removed from office and sidelined without warning so she resigned in 2016.  It is 2018, and Claggett is still Acting Register as there has been no replacement as yet.

The House has already passed the bill and it is in the Senate’s hands now.  The two amendments the House included has been added to the Senate bill’s text.  Those two amendments are : the Registrar “must be capable of identifying and supervising a chief information officer responsible for managing modern information technology systems” and “Nothing in this bill may be construed to impact the mandatory deposit requirements under which owners of a copyright or of an exclusive right of publication must deposit in the U.S. Copyright Office two copies or phonorecords of works published in the United States for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress.”

A bit about the Librarian of Congress who currently is the hiring authority although In the past, the Librarian of Congress was a lifetime appointment and they served until death or retirement.  From 1802 until 2015, there were only 13 Librarians creating “a continuity of atmosphere and of policy that is rare in national institutions.”  That changed in 2015 with a new term limit.  Now the Librarian of Congress is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate for a period of ten years with an option to reappointment.   In the past, the Librarian has also been businessmen, politicians, writers, and lawyers. Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden is the first Librarian under the new term limit and the first professional librarian to be appointed the Librarian of Congress.

The main reason for the bill is to take the authority to hire the Copyright Registar from the Librarian of Congress and make the position a presidential appointee. Congress wants more say so in who gets the job by being party to making recommendations.

My personal opinion is I’m worried about the law change that a president can just fire the person.  That’s what caused all the hoopla in the first place. One person being able to fire a Director of the Copyright Office with no cause.  In this kind of position that effects the freedom of speech through policies they may implement as a director there should be more protections in place especially against being fired by politicians who may be pandering to certain groups when it’s election time or another political appointee.  So I don’t agree with people on either side of the issue actually.

Here is what the American Library Association (ALA) has to say about this new legislation. (I got this in an email and that’s how I found about it)

___ copy and paste of ALA email starts here  (all links in the copy/paste go to the ALA site and either goes to more information or the last one goes to a form than can send an email. I have added links below the copy/paste so you can view arguments for and against and the actual bills. Those links are not ALA links) ____

Advocacy Alert: S. 1010 – Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability

With only a few weeks left in this congressional session, we are facing serious threats focused on the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress.

Next Tuesday, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (S. 1010), a Senate companion to House bill (H.R. 1695) will be voted on by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, in spite of previous concerns by committee members.

This legislation removes the hiring authority of the Copyright Register from the Librarian of Congress to the president. It would politicize the Register’s position to the public’s detriment and slow the critically needed modernization of the Copyright Office. The bill also grants the president power to fire the appointee at any time. Further, while the Senate would at least retain the power to confirm the nominee, the House would no longer have any influence on the selection process.

ALA strongly opposes this bill. We need you to contact your U.S. Senators to express your personal opposition and ask them to vote against it.

While the Senate Rules and Administration Committee might not vote in our favor on Tuesday, we must make sure they hear from us. Please send an email today.

—————– end of copy and paste ——————

I am posting links to arguments for and against below (I’m not good at condensing so it’s better if you read the original arguments).  While I would rather the Copyright Office fall under the Library of Congress rather than the President, others may feel differently.  Perhaps it should be under the Judicil branch. However, neither do I think that the Librarian of Congress should be able to sweep in and just fire the person or demote them without warning or cause.

The arguments for and against the law were first presented under the House Bill which has already passed.  Since those arguments seem more detailed, I have included those House bill pro and con links and then links to the Senate bill.

The House Bill Passed 4/26/17, arguments for & against

The bill has already passed the House and is going to the Senate.

The Copyright Alliance is for the bill and presents their arguments here. The Copyright Allliance board members is composed of ASCAP, Broadcast Music Inc., the Motion Picture Association of America and Universal. Initially the nonprofit organization was organized to oppose the Digital Freedom Campaign which was supported by Consumer Electronics Association, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation presents their arguments against the bill here. The EFF is a major supporter of the Email Privacy Act which has never made it out of committee and against legislation that they view would infringe of personal liberties and fair use.

H.R.1695 – Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017
The congress page on the House bill including the summary, text, amendments, actions, cosponsers, committees, etc.  Here is the current summary :

Passed House amended (04/26/2017)
Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017

(Sec. 2) This bill amends federal copyright law to require the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint a Register of Copyrights from a list of at least three individuals recommended by a panel composed of:

the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
the President pro tempore of the Senate;
the majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate; and
the Librarian of Congress.
(Currently, the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress.)

To be eligible for appointment, the individual must be a citizen of the United States with a professional background and experience in copyright law and must be capable of identifying and supervising a chief information officer responsible for managing modern information technology systems.

The bill limits the term of office for the Register of Copyrights to 10 years, but the individual may be reappointed subject to the same requirements established in this bill.

The President may remove the Register of Copyrights from office and must notify both chambers of Congress of any such removal.

(Sec. 3) Nothing in this bill may be construed to impact the mandatory deposit requirements under which owners of a copyright or of an exclusive right of publication must deposit in the U.S. Copyright Office two copies or phonorecords of works published in the United States for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress.


The upcoming Senate Bill next week, arguments for & against

Electronic Frontier Foundation arguments against the bill can be found here. (See more info on the EFF under my section of the House bill)

While the Copyright Alliance is in support of the bill and created a page for the House version, I could not find a recent post on the Senate bill similar to the one they wrote on the House bill, probably because CA considers the bill a done deal.  This is the statement of support that they provided to the Senate Committee on the bill. (See more info on the CA under my section of the House bill)

S.1010 – Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017
The congress page on the Senate bill including the summary, text, amendments, actions, cosponsers, committees, etc.  Here is the current summary :

Shown Here:
Introduced in Senate (05/02/2017)
Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017

This bill amends federal copyright law to require the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint a Register of Copyrights from a list of at least three individuals recommended by a panel composed of:

the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
the President pro tempore of the Senate;
the majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate; and
the Librarian of Congress.
(Currently, the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress.)

To be eligible for appointment, the individual must be a U.S. citizen with a professional background and experience in copyright law and must be capable of identifying and supervising a chief information officer responsible for managing modern information technology systems.

The bill limits the term of office for the Register of Copyrights to 10 years, but the individual may be reappointed subject to the same requirements established in this bill.

The President may remove the Register of Copyrights from office and must notify both chambers of Congress of any such removal.

Nothing in this bill may be construed to impact the mandatory deposit requirements under which owners of a copyright or of an exclusive right of publication must deposit in the U.S. Copyright Office two copies or phonorecords of works published in the United States for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress.

Other links of interest:

Copyright Office Leadership and Offices

Wikipedia links: