Why Hasn’t Donald Trump Appointed Anyone to Lead the US Copyright Office?

US Copyright Office Confusion!
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US Copyright Office Confusion!
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photo: Erica Wittlieb

Months after Congress decided to give Donald Trump the power to directly appoint a head of the US Copyright Office… crickets.

Updated: the first version of this article incorrectly stated that HR1695 had successfully passed both houses of Congress.  It hasn’t, so here’s the updated article.

Looks like the US Copyright Office is having a serious crisis in leadership.  And that’s because there’s no leader!

That’s right kids: months after Congress started the wheels to enact a provision to allow Donald Trump to directly appoint a leader to the US Copyright Office, nothing of the sort has occurred.

We’d like to say this is close to happening.  But at this stage, we haven’t heard anything on possible candidates.  There hasn’t even been a target date set for appointing a new leader.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that the US Copyright Office won’t have a leader until well into 2018.

Which means you can kiss that long-awaited copyright reform agenda goodbye!

Why Donald Trump Should Destroy the US Copyright Office

A quick look at the US Copyright Office’s latest org chart still shows ‘Acting Register of Copyrights’ Karyn A. Temple Claggett leading the gaggle of troops for now.  Actually, it looks like there’s a serious chance that Claggett will be the ‘actual’ Register by default.

Guess that’s one way to get promoted.

Does the World Really Need NPR?

The big problem here is bureaucracy.  While the US House of Representatives passed ‘The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017’ by a resounding margin, the Senate is still sitting on the bill.  That’s probably because health care has taken center stage, with copyright shoved to the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the US music industry is girding through some serious copyright problems.  Topping the list is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which trade groups like the RIAA have been completely ineffective at dismantling.  Or, even challenging in any significant way.  Now, it appears that they’re going to have even less power to change things, given that there’s really nobody in charge to lobby.

All of which is great for players like YouTube, who positively love the status quo of legislative inaction.

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

Earlier, it was thought that Donald Trump might relish the opportunity to appoint a Register of the US Copyright Office.  And part of the reason was that ‘Hollywood elites’ rely so heavily on copyright protection, meaning Trump has a great opportunity to appoint an anti-copyright administrator.

Enter the ‘Accountability Act,’ which shifted the appointment of the Register of the US Copyright Office from the Library of Congress to the President.  Soon after passage in the House of Representatives, it looked like the perfect tee-off for a Trump-style vendetta.

+ March 30th: House Committee Approves Trump-Controlled US Copyright Office, 27-1

Except, it’s still stuck in the Senate.  And Trump doesn’t appear to care (if he’s even aware of it at all).  All of which means that a chronically useless US Copyright Office is now experiencing bureaucratic rot.

No leader = no leadership = no reform or agenda = even more uselessness!

And what happens once the Senate finally passes this bill?  At this stage, it’s questionable whether this will occur in the next four years.  But trademarks around the Trump brand quickly complicate our anti-Hollywood revenge analysis, and it now seems like the Trump Administration has lost interest in the matter.

Or something like that.

5 Responses

  1. What?

    Wait, when did Congress “enact a provision” that would allow trump to pick the next register of copyrights?

    Last I checked the bill made it to the senate but hadn’t been passed yet

    • Mras

      Yeah, the bill never passed the senate. In this country it’s not law until both houses pass the same bill. It may seem old-fashioned in this strange post truth world we have found ourselves in,but it is a good to check basic facts before posting.

  2. Paul Resnikoff

    Wow, you guys thoroughly destroyed this post, I stand corrected. Thanks for weighing in, I’ll start updating.

  3. Justin M. White

    Even after the edit, this post should really just be retracted. The whole thesis still makes no sense. The House Committee of Appropriations just said it was encouraged by the Library of Congress’s modernization plans for the Copyright Office (link: https://goo.gl/X3VNu6). There isn’t a lack of leadership either: Dr. Hayden is still in charge of the LoC’s and Copyright Office’s IT modernizations and will appoint a new Register of Copyright. The relevant section:

    Copyright Modernization: The Committee is encouraged by the
    collaborative work between the United States Copyright Office
    (USCO) and the Library of Congress’s Office of the Chief Information
    Officer’s Office (OCIO) and is looking forward to the USCO’s
    revised provisional IT plan which is expected in early August. The
    Committee continues to support a shared-services approach with
    regards to commodity IT services. Copyright modernization is
    something the Committee fully supports and will continue to provide
    appropriate resources. As we go forward OCIO is encouraged
    to engage with stakeholders both in the Congressional-community
    and beyond to outline clear benchmarks for progress.