LIBRARY NEWS | Column
Having reported on legislative and legal issues for the better part of two decades, something a source said to me years ago came to mind this week: it’s usually bad bills that get rushed through Congress, because they have to be. The more scrutiny they get, the worse they look. So it kind of makes sense that representatives Bob Goodlatte (a Republican
from Virginia) and John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) called for “quick action”
on the first bill to come out of their now-four-year-old review of our nation’s copyright
laws—it’s not a good bill.
Introduced on March 23, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability
Act (HR 1695) proposes to do one thing: to take the register of copyrights position
out of the purview of the librarian of Congress and make it a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee. But despite attracting 33 bipartisan cosponsors (as well as support
in the Senate) and being rushed through committee in just six days, the bill is now
stalled. And though the measure passed the judiciary committee by a 27-1 vote, opposition in the House at large appears to be growing.
With the House now in recess and with a little more time to reflect, it’s unclear how
quickly the measure will be picked up again—or whether it will be at all—once lawmakers return on April 25. Whatever happens, the bill’s introduction tells me this
much: meaningful reform of copyright for the digital age is probably not happening.
No question, the politics of copyright have always been contentious, and especially
so in the digital age. But that the first bill to come from a much-discussed bipartisan
review of our nation’s copyright laws seeks to politicize the U.S. Copyright Office
represents yet another nadir in our political devolution and raises serious doubt that
we will see thoughtful, meaningful revisions to the U.S. Copyright Act any time soon.
Only more political fights.
A Problem Like Maria
The bill comes roughly six months after Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, in her
first big move, ousted Maria Pallante from her post as register of copyrights last
October, a move that outraged many in the entertainment industries who had counted
Pallante as a close ally. I recall Don Henley was especially upset.
“[Pallante] was a champion of copyright, and stood up for the creative community,
which is one of the things that got her fired,” the 69-year-old soft rock legend and
cofounder of the Eagles told the Washington Post. He went on to call Hayden “an activist
librarian” who is “anticopyright” and had “worked at places funded by Google.”
That Henley even knows who Pallante is surprised me. That he spoke of her as if she
had just been martyred for the cause of creators’ rights, while smearing Hayden, speaks
to just how vital an ally Pallante had become to the entertainment industry.
Indeed, Pallante, who in January was named president and CEO of the Association of
American Publishers, still looms large over the copyright conversation in Washington.
The first bill from the House Judiciary Committee’s
review of copyright laws shows just how fractured
the politics of copyright have become
Is Never Happening
“Kies tells a taut, fast-
paced tale, imbuing each
character with memorable,
compelling traits that help
readers connect with them
... Those who enjoy J.A.
Jance’s Beaumont series
or Sue Grafton’s Kinsey