Next Register of Copyrights

January 31, 2017

Below is the text of comments that the Association submitted in response to the Library of Congress survey seeking inout on the next Register of Copyrights. More about that survey >

1. What are the knowledge, skills, and abilities you believe are the most important for the Register of Copyrights?

As the global association for university presses and other non-profit scholarly publishers, the Association of American University Presses understands the need to balance the interests of publishers and the interests of universities, including their libraries, in determining copyright policy. Our goals include the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, defense of the freedom to read and the freedom to publish, and the promotion of scholarship, research, and education generally, including broad access to scholarly materials consistent with copyright law.

AAUP believes the next Register of Copyrights must deeply understand and have the ability to articulate the following to both Congress and the general public:

  • the importance of copyright law to cultural and intellectual advancement, including as an incentive to the creation of scholarly works;
  • the various roles copyright plays in the economics of publishing for authors, publishers and distributors of published works, including the multiple diverse approaches taken by scholarly presses, societies and other innovative ventures;
  • the challenges that publishers face in enforcing their rights online under the current framework; and,
  • the importance of bridging disagreements among all stakeholder communities to achieve copyright policies that lead to a well-functioning online copyright ecosystem.

Additionally, ideally the next Register should have significant experience with:

  • executive management appropriate to the size and structure of the Copyright Office and the nature of its responsibilities;
  • development and implementation of large-scale enterprise technology modernization strategies;
  • the federal legislative and regulatory processes, including working with Appropriations and Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate; and,
  • working on copyright policy matters with the Executive Branch.
2. What should be the top three priorities for the Register of Copyrights?

Priority #1:
Modernize the Copyright Office by initiating implementation of the Copyright Office’s IT modernization plan (after prompt and appropriate review), which includes making the registration and recordation processes easier and more affordable.

Priority #2:
Develop and implement policies for a sustainable online environment where authors and publishers can effectively exercise and enforce their rights under copyright.

Priority #3:
Develop and advocate for a consensus solution to the problem of Orphan Works that will permit the scholarly use and examination of orphan works, including by working with the various stakeholders.

3. Are there other factors that should be considered?

The Registrar should have the ability to effectively develop and implement public education on copyright law, including its economic and social impact on creators and users of copyrighted works, as well as the needs of libraries, scholars, researchers, and students.

In our view, the Register should consult with former Registers of Copyright for their experienced perspective. The Register also should coordinate closely with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which have substantive legislative jurisdiction over copyright law. In particular, we urge the Librarian to move forward with this appointment in close consultation with the leadership of these Committees with regard to their current consideration of proposals to update the statutory terms for the appointment and service of the next Register of Copyrights.