Is Google Behind the Recent Firing at the U.S. Copyrights Office?

Is Google Behind the Recent Firing At the U.S. Copyrights Office?
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Is Google Behind the Recent Firing At the U.S. Copyrights Office?
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Image by Florian Strzelecki (CC by 2.0)

Looks like someone got the axe at the Copyrights Office thanks to Google.

Maria Pallante was abruptly removed from the U.S. Register of Copyrights early Friday morning. The change was made by the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

Billboard reported that she wasn’t fired, per se.  Officially, Pallante has merely changed office.  She’s now a senior adviser for digital strategy for the Library of Congress.  However, Billboard makes it clear that she was asked to step down.

This is a tragic move.  Apparently, Pallante got to work and found herself locked out of the Library of Congress computer systems.  Earlier, Hayden had spoken with several Congress members to inform them of her decision.  Then, she spoke with top business trade organizations.  Since Hayden is the Librarian of Congress, she alone has the authority to appoint someone to Pallante’s former role without needing any congressional review.

Pallante had worked with the U.S. Register of Copyrights since 2011.  Several Congress members were both surprised and very dismayed at hearing the news. One lawyer said,

The people in the creative community are furious about the fact that this was done, but especially about the way it was done.”

The news comes during a time when the Register of Copyrights is considering new changes. Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid said in a statement,

We are surprised and concerned by today’s news, which comes at a time when the Office and others are considering many potential changes to the copyright system and law.

According to Artist Rights Watch, however, there’s a bigger shadow lurking behind this sudden dismissal. Pallante defended both creators and musicians, advocating fair treatment from media companies. Google, however, is known for sending top lobbyists to the federal government.

A chart on the Artist Rights Watch website shows that 197 jobs have transitioned from the federal government to Google. On the flip side, Google has sent 61 jobs to be filled at the federal government. Well-known Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton has visited the White House under Obama 128 times, making her the top tech lobbyist to visit Obama’s administration the most.

Is Artist Rights Watch’s article merely another anti-Google conspiracy theory? The Trichordist doesn’t think so. They write that Pallante’s firing is unprecedented in U.S. history. Pallante stood up to both Google and “associate” Public Knowledge. Google has closely worked with Public Knowledge in the past.

In early August, Public Knowledge writer Meredith Filak Rose wrote a piece against Pallante, writing that the Copyright Office was a “captured agency.” Thus, they have failed the American people, which Rose writes as “us.” Public Knowledge was also among the first to publicly tweet Pallante’s dismissal, before any other news agency.

Google has also backed the 100 percent licensing rule, which the Songwriters of North America and the Copyrights Office under Pallante have strongly opposed.  Many believe that this will hurt artists but benefit only Google.

So far, no official comment has been released.  Hayden has also recently been appointed as the new Library of Congress.

22 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I’m not too big into conspiracy theories, but even I have to admit this seems shady as fuck. Among other things, we’re in the middle of Phonorecords III (i.e. Determination of Rates and Terms for Making and Distributing Phonorecords), a Copyright Royalty Board proceeding which will determine the rate that publishers are paid for mechanical royalties for interactive streaming through 2022. Google probably doesn’t want those rates (which are really low) to change all that much. I’m wondering what sort of impact Pallente’s firing could have on that.

    This could be a big story.

  2. Anonymous

    It always amazes me how we bash Google/tech companies for lobbying and getting their cronies into federal offices, all the while the RIAA has been doing the exact same thing for years. We always turn a blind eye to the later because it represents creator’s interests. But the fact of the matter is that both sides show just how corrupt our country has become.

    • FarePlay

      Tired misdirection argument used by pirate movement for 15 years to sidetrack the debate.

      I believe it’s called trolling.

      • Anonymous

        I’m dead serious. If you can’t see that having either the RIAA or Google run the copyright office is serious corruption then there really isn’t much hope for you. Neither side has any interests other than their own. That is not the ideology this country was founded on.

        There isn’t really a debate here to sidetrack either. There is no hardcore evidence to back up this story whatsoever.

        • FarePlay

          Here’s the difference. While it is true the RIAA represents the labels, the labels pay the artist AND most importantly the artist is provided with a written contract that outlines their compensation. And the artist CHOOSES to sign it or not.

          Google is purely lobbying for their company and their stockholders.

          For 15 years those who refused to pay for music used your same argument about the labels to justify their position.

  3. Anonymous

    “Maria Pallante was abrupt removed from the U.S. Register of Copyrights”

    Of course she was. She was their only voice of reason.

    Screw Google.

  4. Anonymous

    Why don’t they cancel the presidential election and let Google take over already?

    Gonna happen sooner or later anyway.

  5. Anonymous

    Google’s war on musicians continues.

    It’s fascinating how Google believes they can control art and bring artists to heel.

  6. Anonymous

    Lots of people were tweeting about Pallante’s firing, way before Public Knowledge. Including Alex who broke the story. Also the LOC told various Congressional offices earlier that day

  7. Anonymous

    Oh also this had nothing to do with Google–the new librarian and Maria didn’t get along and Hayden didn’t agree with the agenda of making the Copyright Office an independent agency.

  8. Bill Rosenblatt

    I am disappointed to see that you (like various others) have decided to serve as a magnifier of AWR’s theories over this action at the Copyright Office, which are based on no facts, a misunderstanding of the Copyright Office’s position in government, and the thinnest of circumstantial evidence. Apparently conspiracy theories abhor a vacuum (of facts). This is just irresponsible.

    For the record, I have no idea why Pallante was “reassigned,” and no dog in the fight.

    • FarePlay

      I don’t think you understand the seriousness of the situation or the convoluted situation that surrounds this termination or whatever you choose to call it. what I stated are facts, if you want to check them and call me on it, fine. I’ll deal with you then.

      • Bill Rosenblatt

        Fine, I’ll bite. “Google fired Pallante” rumour rises and fans on ARW’s phrase, “These lines get a bit blurry for Google who doesn’t really care much about who needs to be bought off. The White House may very well have been instructed to fire Pallante by Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton or Google’s White House fixer Ginny Hunt.”

        Those are not facts.

        Btw I agree that this is a serious matter. Which is why it deserves better than this mindless rumour mongering.

        • Bill Rosenblatt

          Sorry, that’s “falls” not “fans.” Blame Samsung autocorrect :-).

  9. Anonymous

    Google? Seriously? Hayden has a decades long career in public libraries. She doesn’t need Google to tell her what’s up with intellectual property rights. Do you have any idea why the head of a major public library (Chicago for example) might care about copyright? Could she have her own dog in the fight? Break out of your little bubble and find out about the world around you.

    • FarePlay

      Ditto for you. If you’re seriously dismayed use your name.

  10. Anonymous librarian

    Carla Hayden a pawn of Google? Very highly unlikely.

    Some of the articles reporting noted that Pallante had previously reported tension between her office and the Library of Congress. That’s one of the reasons she thought the Copyright Office should be spun off independently. Clearly the Librarian of Congress disagreed; removing Pallante was apparently one way to remove the tension within the institution.

    Pallante definitely supported creators. But the Register of Copyrights also has to achieve balance by supporting the public domain. That she did not do at all.

  11. Anonymous

    Carla Hayden was placed in control, a subordinate, Pallante, was lobbying to move part of Carla’s new domain out of Carla’s control. So are you telling me that any new boss would put up with that? No they would move the person to a position that did not give them the opportunity to accomplish this or outright fire them.

  12. Karl Giesing

    The only sources quoted as supporting this conspiracy theory all involve Chris Castle.

    Castle is the person who started and runs the Artists Right Watch website. Castle is also the person behind Music Technology Policy. Though started by David Lowery, the Trichordist site now features more content by Chris Castle than anyone else – usually reposted verbatim from Music Technology Policy (almost certainly by Castle himself).

    And, make no mistake, Castle is definitely a conspiracy theorist. He calls Eric Schmidt “Uncle Sugar,” claims that the EFF and Public Knowledge are both “shills” of Google, and consistently repeats any anti-Google story that he sees (and never retracts them when they turn out to be false). He’s the main person behind the claim that the DOJ advocated full-work licensing only because Renata Hesse recieved her marching orders from Google. (Never mind that all music users who submitted comments to the DOJ said unanimously that they believed they had always gotten full-song licensing… or that Google didn’t even submit a comment). There are plenty of other examples.

    But none of this is a surprise, since he appears to be involved in media and telecom astroturfing. For example, he was a consultant for Arts+Labs, an astroturf group funded by big media and telecom companies, and chaired by Mike McCurry of “Hands Off The Internet” infamy. (Arts+Labs was a big supporter of SOPA, and it folded when its political lobbying failed.)

    Essentially, all of this is just Chris Castle sock puppetry. It’s a telling failure on the author’s part that he fell for it.

  13. Nathan Brydn

    They should fire everyone at the copyright office for letting Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify pirate intellectual property at $0.0007 a play. “They” being Google.

  14. Michael Peters

    Maria is simply motivated by her own personal advancement, Any one that assumes conspiracy or believes she performed in others best interests are just confused, Paliante was just smoke and mirrors and quite frankly not qualified for her post. Any one that has had dealings in any form would agree. There are those that wish to excell at their profession and those that try to position themselves with their profession, Palianta is the later two fold. Any one who wishes to hear what my experienced are as the nephew of the registrar she replaed can contact me anytime, I can assure you none of this as far as Palianta is concerned was anything but the firing of an incompetent employee