The U.S. Copyright Office should use the occasion of the appointment of a new Register of Copyrights to make fundamental changes in how the Office operates, Public Knowledge said today in a new paper, “A Copyright Office for the 21st Century.” Current Register Marybeth Peters has served since 1994 and has announced she will retire at the end of this year.
A full copy of the report is here.
The new Register “must modernize both the operation of the copyright registry and its approach to policymaking,” PK said. In addition, PK recommended putting a limit of 10 years on the amount of time a Register can serve.
“The Copyright Office has evolved from a bureaucratic backwater to become a front-line agency that determines how digital information will be made available to the public. It is imperative that the Office immediately upgrade its technology and its approach to policy,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge.
Public Knowledge said one top qualification for the new Register must be to understand the technology needed to upgrade the copyright registration procedures, which are woefully inadequate. The report said: “There is no reason that a 22-month backlog should exist for paper registrations. There certainly is no reason that the ‘new’ eCO [electronic] registration process should have a 6-month backlog after only two years of operation. These delays are symptoms of a system that is not designed to handle the demands of modern copyright.” PK recommended these objectives:
• Minimize Processing Delays
• Bring All Entries Online
• Make the Registry Searchable
• Create a Visual Registry
• Design for the Future
In addition, the policymaking procedures and practices for the Office should be changed as well to reflect the increased importance of the Office. PK recommended:
• Reach Out Beyond Washington
• Increase Transparency
• Involve More Stakeholders
• Increase Public Participation
The 10-year term limit is necessary “to create an opportunity to refresh the Copyright Office leadership, and hopefully to reconnect with the needs of the public,” PK said.
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