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Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, in Support of H.R. 1695, the “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017”

Apr 26, 2017

I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1695, the “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017.” 

As the lead Democratic cosponsor of this bipartisan and bicameral legislation, I am pleased that this bill passed the Judiciary Committee last month by a vote of 27 to 1.

This legislation represents sound public policy that will strengthen the copyright system.

To begin with, it has evolved directly from the bipartisan copyright review process that Chairman Goodlatte initiated back in 2013.

Over the course of that highly deliberative process, the Judiciary Committee held 20 hearings and heard from 100 witnesses on how to update the copyright laws for the 21st Century.

And, H.R. 1695 is the product of more than 4 years of outreach efforts with a wide range of interested parties who very much want to see a Copyright Office that is responsive to all stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem.

This bill is also the product of bicameral collaboration with our Senate colleagues, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Senator Leahy.

As a result of this inclusive process, a strong bipartisan consensus emerged that the Copyright Office needs to be more accountable to Congress, and that it should have greater independence.

That Office has a long and distinguished history of serving as an advisor to Congress on copyright matters, and it is only reasonable that Congress play a significant role in deciding who leads that important agency.

H.R. 1695 also elevates the stature of the Register and makes the position directly accountable to Congress, which will help ensure a strong and vibrant copyright system that fuels our economy, creates jobs, and promotes a diverse range of views.

Today, core copyright businesses annually contribute more than $1.2 trillion to our Nation’s economy, and generate foreign sales of almost $180 billion.  These businesses are also tremendous job creators, employing more than 5 million workers.

That is why this bill is strongly supported by several unions, including the AFL-CIO, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of TV and Radio Actors as well as the Directors Guild of America.

H.R. 1695 is also supported by a broad range of other stakeholders, including –

  • the American Intellectual Property Law Association,
  • the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and various coalitions of creators such as CreativeFuture and the Copyright Alliance.           

Individual creators like Jeff Friday, the Founder and CEO of Film Life and the Producer of the American Black Film Festival, also are in favor of the bill.

Finally, H.R. 1695 will enable Congress to ensure that the Copyright Office is led by a well-qualified individual by requiring the Register to be confirmed by the Senate.

This individual must be responsive to Congress and the public, as well as all the stakeholders in the copyright community.

In fact, an amendment offered by Congresswoman Jackson-Lee that was accepted during the Judiciary Committee markup of the bill will further strengthen the selection process by establishing an even larger role for Congress in choosing the candidates for the position.

Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1695 and I reserve the balance of my time.

115th Congress