US Copyright Office Listed Fake $25 Million Budget Item

Artist Royalties
  • Save

Did Google really force the resignation of  Maria Pallante?  Or, was the US Copyright Office being totally mismanaged?

During her time at the US Copyright Office, Maria Pallante was hailed as a defender of the creative community.  Last October, (then) recently appointed Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden switched Pallante to a new job post.  She resigned two days later without a specific reason given.

Many suspected Google of pushing Hayden to force Pallante’s resignation.  Unfavorable copyright judgments would’ve stood in their way had Pallante remained.

But maybe that’s not what happened, at all.  A document leaked last week showed that Pallante may have grossly mismanaged the US Copyright Office.  As Register of Copyright, Pallante implemented a costly software system to update the office.  She’s now accused of lying to Congress.

In total, Pallante is being blamed for blowing $11.6 million before finally pulling the plug on the failed project. But this may be even uglier than we first thought.

Now, it seems far less likely Google meddled with the US Copyright Office.  In fact, that now appears like a cooked-up theory.

Congress is currently discussing a bill that would grant President Trump the power to appoint and fire the Copyright Register.  Carla Hayden wanted to add an amendment to the bill allowing the Librarian of Congress to fire the Register.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren didn’t give in to that demand, however.  At a Committee on the Judiciary meeting, Lofgren revealed that Maria Pallante put in place a fake $25 million budget line item.  She questioned Hayden’s ability to “properly supervise” the Copyright Office if the Register only answers to the executive branch.  Making the Librarian of Congress swear under oath, she said,

“Now, what can a Librarian do if a Register is acting insubordinately, or giving fake budget request numbers? Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical.  While preparing the fiscal year 18 appropriations request, the Library noticed that a $25 million line item in the Copyright Office’s request didn’t add up.  When questioned about this, Register Pallante stated that this number ‘was no big deal’ — it was just a placeholder.  They’d make adjustments after the money was appropriated.

“In other words, the Copyright Office gave the Librarian fake budget numbers.  And she intended to testify in front of the Appropriations Committee to the need of these made-up funds.”

The 2017 Copyright Office budget had three items that added up to $74 million.  Pallante’s fake $25 million accounted for a third of the US Copyright Office’s budget.

It now appears that Hayden noticed these poor project managements, fake budget line items, and wasted budgets.  These factors most likely led to Pallante’s sudden job shift, and her subsequent exit from the US Copyright Office.

However, will Maria Pallante or anyone face trial hearings for lying to Congress?

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    To be fair, the copyright office records are a bit of a mess. They do need to be modernized, and such a task wouldn’t be easy or cheap. That said, I’m inclined to think it’s not an insurmountable issue, and the taxpayer money spent on it should’ve yielded better results than it did. I bet this has more to do with poor management than anything truly scandalous.

  2. Will Buckley

    Paul, this is a highly inflammatory charge. You provide a link to a hearing that runs over 5 hours in length.

    I’ve searched for additional information on this allegation and find none. Can you please direct me to either a transcript of the hearing and corroborating information?

    The individual quoted in your article has known ties to the EFF and Public Knowledge, which clouds whatever “unsubstantiated” claims she makes.

    Let’s get some facts, before making allegations.