Why Was Maria Pallante Fired? US Copyright Office Chiefs Not Having It

Two US Copyrights Office Heads Defend Maria Pallante
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Two US Copyrights Office Heads Defend Maria Pallante
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Image by Mario Mancuso (CC by 2.0)

Not everyone agrees with the “sudden” (forced) dismissal of Maria Pallante at the US Copyright Office.

Why exactly did Maria Pallante quit the U.S. Copyright Office? Artist Rights Watch believes Google asked Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden to suddenly shift her job responsibilities. The Wall Street Journal believes Google is slowly taking over copyright to further benefit financially.

And even founding Eagles member, Don Henley, believes,

“The librarian wants free content, and the copyright office is there to protect creators of content. [Carla Hayden] has a long track record of being an activist librarian who is anti-copyright and a librarian who worked at places funded by Google.”

Now, two former heads of the US Copyright Office are sharply criticizing Maria Pallante’s firing. In a letter written to the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Ralph Oman and Marybeth Peters state,

We write to express our concern about the unseemly dismissal of the Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante. We write as former Registers of Copyrights, having served in that post collectively for the twenty-five years immediately preceding Ms. Pallante’s tenure. Our concern is focused on the implications of Ms. Pallante’s dismissal for the future of the American copyright system.”

Oman and Peters both accuse Carla Hayden of deliberately and abruptly removing Pallante from her position. Furthermore, Hayden didn’t consult Congress. Oman and Peters consider the action disrespectful and worthy of serious concern. As other mediums have stated previously, Oman and Peters write that in its 119-year history, “no other Librarian has treated a Register with such disrespect.” Oman and Peters state that copyright, and copyright laws, “helped create our unique American culture.” Thus, Hayden’s actions warrant sufficient investigation. In addition, they add a stark contrast between two inevitable copyright futures.

Since that time, the role of the Register and the importance of copyright have grown, and the competing missions and differing priorities of the Library and the Copyright Office have increasingly emerged as a source of tension. Neither Ms. Pallante’s endorsement in principle of greater autonomy for the Copyright Office nor Dr. Hayden’s decision to remove her created these tensions. Rather, they are inevitable given the divergent roles of the two organizations. Stripped to its basics, the choice is stark: Does Congress want modernization and independent copyright advice straight and true from the expert agency, or does it want copyright administration and advice filtered through the lens – and shaped by the perspective – of the head of the national library?”

The letter finishes, urging the Judiciary Committees for quick action.

“We urge you to give this matter your early consideration — for the benefit of future generations of artists, authors, entrepreneurs, and the American public. The United States needs a Copyright Office that is built to succeed.”

You can read the full letter, and attachments, here, provided by Artist Rights Watch.

5 Responses

  1. FarePlay

    The messy handling of ‘eliminating’ a popular advocate of artists rights has special interest intervention written all over it.

  2. D.C. Insider

    Stop whipping up conspiracy theories about topics about which you have ABSOLUTLEY ZERO KNOWLEDGE OR UNDERSTANDING.

    In the first place, Pallante wasn’t “dismissed” as Oman and Peters stated. She was re-assigned, and then SHE quit. That may SEEM like a minor point – especially if you’re busy assuming something is wrong. But, the fact that Oman and Peters both intentionally mis-stated that important point, specifically in order to cast Pallante’s move as “unprecedented” shows how desperate they are – and how little traction their plea will get.

    Google had nothing directly to do with it, at all (and very little, in general). Of course, Google is a significant force in Washington, it would be silly to not recognize that. Google had no direct play however, in Hayden moving Pallante. Pallante essentially got herself fired by a) continuing to run the Copyright Office into the ground and making no improvements, while b) trying to set Copyright policy, which is NOT the Copyright Office[‘s job, and c) telling Congress, and everyone else who would listen, that she didn’t like reporting to the Librarian, she wanted more autonomy and more authority.

    She basically told her boss – to her face – that she didn’t want to work for her and she had bigger plans.

    Moving on, you’re all obviously too uninformed on these issues to even recognize that Pallante’s interim replacement is a former high-level RIAA employee, and her former General Counsel was a NMPA’s General Counsel right before jumping to the CO.

    What was that about “a monopoly of a private business and placement of its former employees in key government positions”???


    Librarian Carla Hayden absolutely deliberately and abruptly removed Pallante from her position. Oman and Peters observed that “over its 119-year history, no other Librarian has treated a Register with such disrespect.” But they utterly fail to observe that Pallante was the first Register in that 119 year history to buck the system and tell Congress – right in front of the then-acting Librarian – that all of the Copyright Office’s problems were the Librarian’s fault.

    Oman and Peters’ “Stark Choice” is obvious, as is the answer. Congress does NOT want copyright “advice” on policy from the Copyright Office. that is NOT the CO’s job. Indeed, Pallante won few champions in Congress by consistently putting her thumb on the policy scale when it came to Copyright questions, instead of delivering truly neutral, unbiased opinions as to the state and effect of copyright law. Congress seems to want a Copyright Office that is less activist and more academic.

    that is certainly what Dr. Hayden wants – and will get.