Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 1695, the “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017”
Mr. Chairman – As you know, I am an original cosponsor and strong supporter of H.R. 1695, the “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017.” This bipartisan and bicameral legislation was developed in collaboration with our Senate colleagues, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Pat Leahy. It is also the product of more than four years of hearings, and conversations with a wide range of stakeholders, who all wish to see a Copyright Office that is responsive to all stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem.
I support this legislation for several reasons. To begin with, elevating the stature of the Register -- and making the position directly accountable to Congress -- would help ensure a strong and vibrant copyright system, which creates jobs and promotes a diverse range of views.
Today, core copyright businesses contribute more than $1.2 trillion to our economy each year, and generate foreign sales of almost $180 billion. They are also tremendous job creators, employing more than 5.5 million workers. That is why this bill is strongly supported by several unions, including the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of TV and Radio Actors as well as the Directors Guild of America.
In addition, an effective copyright system enables a broad range of independent and diverse voices to emerge, secure in the knowledge that they will be rewarded for their efforts. I would also point out, that this bill grows directly from the bipartisan copyright review process that Chairman Goodlatte initiated back in 2013. This Committee held 20 hearings and heard from 100 witnesses about how to update the copyright laws for the 21st Century.
As a result of this process, a strong bipartisan consensus emerged that the Copyright Office needs to be more accountable to Congress, and that it should have greater independence. The Copyright 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 role in deciding who leads that important office.
Finally, requiring the Register to be confirmed by the Senate will allow Congress to ensure that the Copyright Office is led by a well-qualified individual who is responsive to Congress, the public, and all the stakeholders in the copyright community, as well as establish the Copyright Office on firmer constitutional footing. I will also be supporting an amendment by Ms. Jackson-Lee that would strengthen the selection process by establishing an even larger role for Congress in choosing the candidates for the position than the base text does.
Accordingly, I look forward to supporting the amendment and the underlying bill, and I urge all of my colleagues to do the same.