Why Donald Trump Should Destroy the US Copyright Office

Image of a destroyed building. Should the same be done to the US Copyright Office?
  • Save

Want to fix copyright law in the United States?  Then start by destroying the US Copyright Office.

The US Copyright Office doesn’t have a leader.  There isn’t a ‘Register’.  And why is that?  Well, the last one was fired for blowing nearly $40 million on approximately nothing.

I’m not an investigator.  And I don’t want some ex-bureaucrat suing me.  But this stuff is now well documented.  In fact, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren slammed ex-Register Maria Pallante for fabricating $25 million in expenses (yeah, go read about that).

On top of that, a leaked report showed that another $11-12 million was blown on a copyright database because of gross incompetence.


Americans pay a lot of taxes.  Music industry businesses pay a lot more taxes.  So when we learn about blatant waste like this, it really, really stings.

What else is the US Copyright Office wasting?

Think about how incredibly screwed up US Copyright Law is right now.  At any given moment, courts across the United States are arbitrating issues based on non-sensical, contradictory laws related to recordings and publishing.  An inane Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is twenty years out of date.  And it’s the entire reason why the music industry can never compete against big bullies like YouTube.

It’s also the reason why it took a decade for the music industry to start rebounding.  RIAA chairman Cary Sherman said it best: the recovery happened in spite of US Copyright Law, not because of it.

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

Meanwhile, courts are also deliberating plagiarism cases involving songs like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Blurred Lines,’ with very little underlying guidance.  Others are getting bullied for writing simpleton pieces that sort of sound like other simpleton pieces.  And they’re losing millions in settlements, just because they don’t have the money or sophistication to defend themselves.

So what exactly constitutes a rip-off, US Copyright Office?  Please, tell us!  And if the US Copyright Office can’t inform, update, and drive changes to make copyright relevant in 2017, WTF are they doing?  Where is that guidance and change going to come from, if not from the agency specifically created to develop a framework to protect creativity and oversee copyright in America?

Because without any critical guidance, judges are forced to essentially write laws through precedent.

They’re making it up as they go, because they have to.

All of which means we’re blowing hundreds of millions while competing music industry factions wage war in our courtrooms.  Judges have better things to do.  Too bad Americans are paying their salaries, too, not to mention keeping the lights on during all of these ridiculous deliberations.

Back in DC, Copyright Tribunals sit in small courtrooms deliberating picayune details about archaic licenses.  Yep, we’re paying their salaries, too, yet artists themselves can’t get paid because there isn’t a clear copyright code to pay them.

So if you’re the little guy, you’re screwed.  And so is your creativity.

Depending on how you look at it, Copyright Law in the United States hasn’t been substantially updated in 20 years.  But I’d argue it’s more like 40.

Yeah, it’s that fucked up.

But that’s not the US Copyright Office’s fault!

It isn’t?  The US Copyright Office was created to establish and maintain a clear, up-to-date Copyright Law that protects creativity in the US and even abroad.  That was their original charter in the late 1700s.

None of that is happening.  In fact, it feels like we’re experiencing the opposite of that.

So whose job should it be to fix that?

Where’s the cage-rattling, the massive overhaul in Copyright Law, the urgent drive to update antiquated statutes?   In the last few years, there hasn’t been one proposal to radically update the US Copyright Law of 1976.  What’s the reason for that?

Maybe there are $37 million reasons for that.

But what about copyright registration?  We need that!

Yeah, we also need the DMV to issue license plates.  But we don’t need the same office to determine transportation policy in the United States.  In fact, we definitely don’t want administrators who oversee smog checks and drivers’ licenses to be managing sophisticated planning issues around self-driving cars, Uber, and urban congestion.

One can deal with the paperwork, the other can determine complex policy.  In fact, you could hand copyright registration tasks to any number of capable, private firms in the music industry: Music Reports, SoundExchange, even the PROs or a digital distributor.

They’d process applications and filings according to the laws and statutes.  That would be their job, and they’d take a cut for doing it.  They could handle it, for a far lower fee.

(Quick update: see the comment below on how pathetically bad the US Copyright Office is at even registering works!)

The United States Copyright Office was created to construct a unified, sensible copyright system that protects creativity and innovation in this country.  It’s not even close to accomplishing that mission in 2017.

So what should President Donald Trump do?  Last month, Congress introduced legislation to give Trump the power to select and remove the next Register of Copyrights.

What they should really do is give him the power to destroy the entire building.  As long as we’re bombing things, right?



21 Responses

  1. Bob


    The U.S. Copyright Office has little or nothing to do with writing, establishing or creating the laws that are being tested in copyright court cases.

    You need a civics lesson. If you want the copyright laws changed then lobby members of the U.S House of Representatives and Senate because they are the ones who write and pass federal statutes.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Of course, Congress approves laws. They are the lawmaking body. But who’s driving the changes, recommendations, and proposals to change those laws as they relate to copyright?

      What? It’s not the US Copyright Office?

      Exactly my point.

      • Bob

        But who’s driving the changes, recommendations, and proposals to change those laws as they relate to copyright?

        Major publishers, media corporations and their lobbyists. How naive are you?

        • danwriter

          Exactly. Most notably Disney but most major content and enterprise-level copyright holders have continuously (and very successfully) lobbied for broader, longer and more comprehensive copyright legislation, with contributions going directly to the legislators of their choice. Paul is edging further and further into Trump territory: midnight ramblings based on emotion and llittle else.

        • Paul Resnikoff


          Well, if those are the groups truly creating copyright law (or lack thereof), why do we need a bloated US Copyright Office again?

          I’m not trying to be confrontational here, I’m just not hearing anything cogent in these responses.

          • Satan

            To file a copyright infringement action you need to register your copyright. The Copyright Office is the place where they make those registrations. That’s the law you and you are free to lobby your representative in congress to change that

            And speaking of bloated, the USPTO has more copyright attorneys than the Copyright Office, the USPTO spends exponentionally more time and money on developing business copyright policy decisions than the Copyright Office does. I think the USPTO is hosting a conference on copyright real soon,

            So stop whining about the bloated copyright office and look around at who is actually driving the debate about the future of copyright

  2. smg77

    American’s don’t pay a lot of taxes. This article is ridiculous.

  3. Anonymous

    Well Paul you have finally jumped the shark and become Mike Masnick. With this article you have proven once and for all the Digital Music News is a useless amalgamation of fake news, lack of understanding of the issues and pure laziness in researching the facts.

    As with Masnick reading your drivel has become a total waist of time.

    Bye Bye

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Mike Masnick is one of the smartest journalists out there, and one of the reasons DMN is alive and growing. You might not agree with what he says, but he fights for journalistic freedom especially when bullied by ‘high-powered’ lawyers abusing the legal system.

      • Satan

        Oh paul

        You need to link more to copyhype and illusion of more to get some balance back

        Mike Masnick has an agenda. He’s is entitled to that but cmon saying he’s a good journalist? He’s about a one step removed from pure propaganda

        Anyway, I used to visit your site all the time I used to comment all the time I quit when more and more poorly thought out “news” articles were being published.

        Then this article popped in a google news feed and I thought I would check it out

        How disappointed I am that you have stooped so low as to post a crappy click bait article then try to defend it as news and mike mad nick as a journalist

        Anyway, maybe I’ll come back after another few years

        • Anonymous

          Masnick is funded by Google and is clearly a Google stooge. He’s anti creator’s rights and pro Google’s bank account. You say Masnick is the reason DMN is alive and growing. Does that mean you are also a beard for Google?

  4. Copyright Office = Worthless

    My company has been waiting 1.5 to 2.5 years for our latest copyright submissions to be reviewed…and we’re still waiting! We’re talking over 60 submissions that cover 1000+ different tracks. Talk about a broken agency! How on Earth can we protect our property when the government won’t even acknowledge we exist!

    • Satan

      Your comment points out exactly why the Copyright Office is not bloated. The CO has the duty of registering thousands of copyright claims weekly. Their registration department has been understaffed literally for decades due to budget cuts and hiring freezes. Their IT systems are antiquated due to continuous neglect by Library of Congress Management and the copyright Office budget is subject to the Library’s approval and if securing copyright for authors goes against some policy principals of the Library guess whose budget gets last consideration when come to budget decision time

      The Copyright Office isn’t bloated it’s evacuated to the point where it can’t function

      • Satan

        Spell check changed emaciated to evacuated I don’t know why but it ruined the metaphor

        So anyway, paul you need to try a little harder next time writing a story and maybe I’ll return to reading your articles

      • Paul Resnikoff

        This just proves why this should be moved to the private sector. There are dozens of companies with fully-stacked IT systems to handle this sort of thing. Advance DB servers, staff, etc., at probably 1/10th the cost. Put out the RFP, you’ll have about 10 bids in two weeks.

        Of course the US Gov’t isn’t going to do this. Why would they replace themselves? The bloated, wasteful machine is usually pretty advanced at self-preservation.

        • Satan

          Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

          A large part of Library of Congress IT dept is already outsourced to a private contractor

          Yes a private company could modernize the IT infrastructure of the Copyright Office at 1/10th cost of govt employees but the Library of Congress won’t even approve the budget for that

          Oh you make me laugh

  5. Wurd

    Have you talked with any other sources aside from Lofgren who are in support of this issue?
    Of course not real journalism isn’t click bait

  6. Satan

    Paul I live and work in DC and you are entitled to your own opinion and absolutely free to express that opinion on your website, but using the idea and image of a building being blown as a metaphor for removing or dismantling a government building and institution is really cheap and ill conceived at best

    So if I disagreed with how you run your business I should publish a story on how Paul’s house should be blown up? Is that how this works?

  7. K-pop Stan

    Seems like you not only suck in k-pop articles but other articles as well…anyways I hope you could just stop writing articles before you get pissed off

  8. Rubber CHicken

    Was this written by a child? Are you mentally ill? Yeah, 11-12 million is such a big waste by DC standards. You on board with the destruction of PBS and the NEA as well? I used to think the people who criticized you were being fussy, Now I wonder.