A Copyright Office for the 21st Century: Recommendations to the New Register of Copyrights

Public Knowledge has released A Copyright Office for the 21st Century: Recommendations to the New Register of Copyrights .

Here's an excerpt:

First and foremost, the next Register of Copyrights should prioritize updating the copyright registration system so that it can meet the demands of modern copyright. There is no reason why, in an era of interconnected computers and sophisticated digital imaging, the registry should have long processing delays, be incomplete, not include visual works, and not be searchable from any Internet-accessible device. A complete copyright registry that takes full advantage of digital technology will reduce costs for copyright holders, those engaging in searches, and taxpayers. Importantly, a complete and widely accessibly registry will help to ensure that those seeking to make use of copyrighted works can more easily find and compensate their owners.

Second, the next Register of Copyrights must recognize that copyright policymaking is no longer a sleepy backwater followed by a handful of copyright holders and their lawyers. Thanks largely to the clash of an overwhelmingly pre-VCR copyright law with digital technology, the length and terms of copyright law have become a matter of public debate. Moreover, ubiquitous computers and Internet access have made just about everyone a creator with a stake in copyright policymaking. Thus, the Copyright Office should take its cue from other government agencies and reach out affirmatively to various stakeholder groups and the public at large – not only to inform them of what the Copyright Office is doing, but also to seek their participation in policymaking.

The increased interest, and the public’s stake, in copyright policymaking also make it essential that the Copyright Office follow the Obama Administration’s goal of a more open and transparent government. At a minimum, this means that the Copyright Office must reveal who is meeting with their staff and why.

Finally, this paper recommends that Congress limit the term of the Register of Copyrights to no more than 10 years. Term limits make political appointees more accountable and reduce the possibility of capture by one or more existing stakeholder groups.

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