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Fact Sheet: H.R. 1695, The Register Of Copyrights Selection And Accountability Act

Apr 25, 2017

The core copyright industries employ an estimated 5.5 million people, throughout all 50 states, and represent $1.2 trillion in GDP, almost 7 percent of the economy. Creators depend on the copyright laws, and a strong and independent Copyright Office.  Since 2013, the House Judiciary Committee has been working on ways to improve the Copyright Office including making the Register a Presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed position in order to improve transparency, accountability, and efficiency at the Copyright Office.

The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), makes important changes to the selection process for the head of the U.S. Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights.

Summary for H.R. 1695

H.R. 1695 makes all future Registers of Copyrights within the Library of Congress subject to a Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate for a 10 year term. The bill will also create a Congressional panel to develop a nominee slate containing at least three names from which the President may choose. This ensures that Members have a more formal process for input into who is chosen as Register, similar to what is done for other Legislative Branch agency heads like the GAO and AOC. This bill retains a role for the Librarian in the selection process. On March 29, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695) by a vote of 27-1.

o   This is far preferable to current law which would allow the President to terminate the Librarian at will and install whomever he wanted as Copyright Register without any Senate confirmation process or any other input from Congress.

  • Enhances Librarian of Congress: H.R. 1695 does not undermine the Librarian of Congress. In 2013, long before Dr. Hayden was appointed to be Librarian of Congress, the Judiciary Committee began a comprehensive review of the Copyright Act and the Copyright Office.

o   This four-year long process led to a broad consensus that the stature of the Register of Copyrights should be elevated and the position should be directly accountable to Congress.  Out of deference to the Librarian, the bill was further amended in Committee to ensure that she would be part of the panel that develops the list of candidates.

 

Union and Stakeholder Endorsed

The vast majority of employees who earn a living in copyright-related industries work behind the scenes in union jobs.  H.R. 1695 is strongly supported by millions of creative industry workers, unions, guilds and organized labor, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the Directors Guildand the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), as well as many other organizations. A full list of unions and organizations that support the bill is available here.

 

A Bill that Democrats Support

Rep. John Conyers is the lead Cosponsor of H.R. 1695. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 27-1 and was supported at markup by Democratic Reps. Conyers, Nadler, Jackson Lee, Cohen, Deutch, Bass, Jeffries, Swalwell, Lieu, Raskin, Jayapal, and Schneider.   The legislation is also supported by the leading Senate Judiciary Democrats, Ranking Member Feinstein and former Chairman Leahy. A full list of Democratic supporters is available here.

Supporting Documents for H.R. 1695

 

Background on Bipartisan Copyright Review

As part of the copyright review, the House Judiciary Committee held 20 hearings which included testimony from 100 witnesses.  Following these hearings, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers invited all prior witnesses of the Committee’s copyright review hearings and other interested stakeholders to meet with Committee staff and provide additional input on copyright policy issues.  In addition, the House Judiciary Committee conducted a listening tour with stops in Nashville, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles where they heard from a wide range of creators, innovators, technology professionals, and users of copyrighted works. Watch Here

In December 2016, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers released the first policy proposal to come out of the Committee’s review of U.S. Copyright law. 

On March 23, 2017, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act.

115th Congress