Trump Is About to Gain Full Control Over the US Copyright Office

US Copyright Office, Washington, DC. Trump May Gain Full Control Over Register Appointments.
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US Copyright Office, Washington, DC. Trump May Gain Full Control Over Register Appointments.
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US Copyright Office, Washington, DC

It’s the giant ‘f*&k you’ Trump’s been dying to give Hollywood.  Now, pending legislation would pass full authority over the US Copyright Office to Donald Trump.

Think copyright law is seriously screwed up?  Then get ready for even greater chaos ahead.  Now, a broken, outdated set of copyright statutes could fall under direct purview of the Trump Administration.

What could possibly go wrong?

Right now, the US Copyright Office falls under the Library of Congress.  Accordingly, the head of the US Copyright Office — called the ‘Register’ — has traditionally been appointed by the head of the Library of Congress.  Carla Hayden currently oversees the Library of Congress, by appointment from Barack Obama.

Which means, not only is Hayden likely to get axed, so are large portions of the US Copyright Office staff.  And whoever’s appointed as Register may have an entirely different boss.  Which brings us to…

‘The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017’

Currently, pending Congressional legislation seeks to shift authority over the US Copyright Office to the president.  Trump had trouble gutting Obamacare despite a majority Republican congress.  But this is probably going to be an easier one (for a number of reasons).

Basically, the bill calls for the president to select a Register to a ten-year term, with the Senate approving the choice.  But one little kicker is that the president can fire and replace the Register at any point.

That said, the Trump and the Republican Senate are likely to appoint someone that Hollywood absolutely hates.  Because, of course they will.

Currently, there isn’t even a Register, since Hayden fired the last one.  Conspiracies pegged that as a Google-inspired ax job.  Though Google will have far less say in the next round.  “We must ensure that any new Register is a good manager and fully qualified to lead and make this office more operationally effective as he or she continues to directly advise Congress on copyrights,” a joint Congressional statement declared.

“The next Register of Copyrights should be dedicated to serving all stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem.”

Bi-partisan support.

Wait, what?  Both parties want to collectively get something done?

Yes indeed, this is a bi-partisan initiative.  Perhaps copyright is that obviously screwed up.  Last week, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) introduced the bill, declaring a “bipartisan, bicameral effort” to replace the Register.

Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has weighed in to support the bill.  “Importantly, the legislation will enable the American people and all interested parties to provide input through their elected officials into the selection of the Register,” an MPAA statement declared.

“Once this targeted legislation is enacted, Congress will be able to focus on the broader task of Copyright Office modernization.”

At this stage, it’s difficult to say if the MPAA is simply playing nice or genuinely dislikes the current structure.

It’s also a little difficult to pick through the carnage ahead.  After all, Trump hates Silicon Valley, which hates overbearing copyright.  But he also despises the Hollywood elite, who desperately need tougher copyright protections.  Trump personally loves trademark protections, however, given its importance to the Trump brand.

All of which equals a totally unpredictable result!

And what about the music industry?

Music industry lobbyists at the RIAA have been pretty quiet post-Trump.  And serious questions surround their sagging influence on the Hill.  But a massive chorus of anti-Trump musicians, many of whom refused to perform the Inauguration, certainly doesn’t help.

The current Acting Register is Karyn Temple Claggett, who replaced Maria Pallante last year.  That last broad-reaching copyright overhaul happened in 1976.

More as this develops.


9 Responses

  1. Taylor 614

    Wow, Trump in charge of the Copyright Office? Sounds scary. But wait, Trump already has control over selection of the Librarian of Congress, who is currently responsible for appointing the Register of Copyrights.

    So, while this bill would let the President nominate people for TWO positions, it really doesn’t give him any more control than he already has. In fact, he arguably would have less because both the Librarian of Congress and Register of Copyrights would be subject to Senate vetting and a confirmation vote.

    Despite the many misgivings copyright owners may have about DJT, everyone in the DC copyright community recognizes passing this bill is much better than leaving the selection to a woman who fired a well-regarded Register of Copyrights.

    But keep trying to stir the pot, DMN!

    • copyrightthis

      The current Librarian of Congress cannot be removed. She is serving a 10 year appointment.

  2. Paul Resnikoff


    The Register is no longer a buried bureaucratic appointment relegated to the back pages of DMN. It is a direct appointment, inviting direct participation and control from the president.

    Changes things.

    • Taylor 614

      Changes things? Sure. But the let’s not overstate the significance of this move. I assure you that John Conyers would not be on board with this bill if he thought it was actually going to give DJT any meaningful control over the Copyright Office.

      Here are some other points to consider:

      – Both the Library of Congress and Copyright Office are – and will remain – part of the Legislative (Congress), not Executive (President) branch. That means they are not part of the administration, nor do they have day-to-day accountability to the administration.

      – Does providing the President ability to fire the Register of Copyrights and nominate a new one give him more influence over the position? Perhaps. But as previously noted, he can already remove the Librarian of Congress and replace her with someone willing to appoint a Register of Copyrights he likes.

  3. Wurdo

    This is not a move coming from Trump. The last registrar was a great advocate for artists and was fired by the librarian of congress. If this site did any homework on the work being done it would be clear that his issue and this bill have been around for a lot longer than DJT.
    But keep trying to keep your sagging journalism relevant by making unsupported claims!

    • Anonymous

      It sounds like the intention of the bill was good. However, it was likely based on the assumption that the president would be a person with some reasonable degree of competency. We may be in trouble here.

  4. Anonymous

    Poor analysis. Minimal research. Junk click bait.
    Could you remove the word “news” from this site because it’s misleading, if you care about such things.

  5. durrrrrrrrrr....

    Did anyone see that Bertolli pasta ad right in the middle of the bunch of nonsense above? I’m wondering what type of mushrooms they used in the rigatoni recipe. Any help? For some real perspective on the new House bill you should check out

  6. read and listen, dont just read

    CARLA HAYDEN DIDN’T “FIRE” THE LAST REGISTRAR FOR NOTHING: The last registrar was let go because she wanted to take the Copyright Office away from the Library of Congress. She had plans to make it a private company. The Library of Congress has a Law Office; she tried to make her own within the Copyright Office .. and then take it away form the Library of Congress. She fired herself by not wanting to work with the Carla Hayden; she tried to leave when the last librarian [Dr. Billington] served. It was let her go .. or let her keep control of the Copyright Office and be a thorn in the Librarian’s side .. constantly threatening to leave.