American Library Association (ALA) president Courtney Young responded to the introduction of the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act (CODE Act) by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Tom Marino (R-PA).
For more than 20 years, content creators, rights holders, legislators and public users alike have acknowledged that the U.S. Copyright Office needs to modernise its technological capabilities for the 21st century. Unfortunately, the recently introduced Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act does little to address significant technology challenges impacting the U.S. Copyright Office.
The bill's proposal to make the Copyright Office an independent agency does not address the longstanding problems facing the agency, specifically that the Copyright Office's information technology systems are woefully inadequate in serving both rights holders and the public in the digital environment. Much of the Copyright Office's shortcomings were detailed in a Government Accountability Office report published in March 2015. Instead of independent authority, the Copyright Office needs resources - both in the form of funding and technical expertise - to bring it out of the typewriter age.
Rights holders, authors, publishers, libraries and the general public nationwide rely on the robust U.S. Copyright registration and recordation system to identify the copyright status of works. Comprehensive and accurate records in digital systems that can communicate with other digital systems are necessary to handle any transaction - whether one is trying to register copyright in order to proceed with legal action or whether one is just trying to identify who holds the rights to a particular work. In addition, progress should be made immediately to build the necessary digital storage facilities for digitally-born works.
ALA urges the US Congress to support the investment necessary to transition the Copyright Office from a paper-based system to a digital system that uses the most effective digital technology, systems and software–to enable commerce, promote access to content, and to inspire the creators and artists of the future who wish to make use of the previous works. A successful overhaul of the Copyright Office's information technology infrastructure cannot be achieved by securing the Copyright Office's independence from the Library of Congress.