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Bill to make Copyright Register a Presidential appointment “mystifying”

Late last Thursday, in a relatively rare bicameral announcement, five senior members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees endorsed legislation to transfer the power to appoint the Register of Copyrights from the Librarian of Congress to the President. The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695) was authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6). It also was cosponsored on its introduction by the Committee’s Ranking Member, John Conyers (D-MI13), and 29 other members of the House (21 Republicans and 8 Democrats). Senate supporters currently are Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

The bill was referred to Mr. Goodlatte’s Committee for consideration and is widely expected to be voted upon (at least in Committee, if not the full House of Representatives) prior to the upcoming spring recess beginning April 10. No parallel Senate bill yet has been introduced and the pace of H.R. 1695’s or a similar bill’s review in that chamber, as well as which committee or committees will have jurisdiction over it, is currently unclear.

In a sharply worded statement, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) unqualifiedly opposed the bill on multiple grounds, particularly that it would politicize the Register’s position to the public’s detriment and inevitably slow the critically needed modernization of the Copyright Office. LCA, comprised of ALA, ACRL and ARL, also called the bill “mystifying” given that – if passed – Congress would voluntarily give up its power to appoint its own copyright advisor to the President to whom the bill also grants the power to fire the appointee at any time (despite the bill also confusingly specifying a 10-year renewable term of office for the Register)! Further, while the Senate would at least retain the power to confirm the nominee, the House would no longer have any influence on the selection process.

LCA’s statement was quoted at length by the widely read Beltway publications Washington Internet Daily (behind a paywall) and Broadcasting & Cable. ALA and its LCA partners will be monitoring H.R. 1695’s progress in the House and Senate closely.

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This content was written by the ALA Public Policy and Advocacy Office. Please be in touch if you have any questions:


  1. Patricia Freeman Patricia Freeman

    I am horrified by the proposal to transfer the Register of Copyrights to the President
    and by some usually-trustworthy legislators who have gone along with it.
    That smacks of one more set toward attempted dictatorship and what went on in Nazi Germany!

  2. P. Constantinou P. Constantinou

    I am shocked that the proposed transfer of the appointment of the
    Register of Copyrights to the President is not in all bold caps on library websites and list serves! This cannot be good for our democracy. What are these legislators thinking? We are all so mired in the daily slight of hand coming out of the White House that assaults on our intellectual freedom can quietly slip by with barely a ripple in the sludge of the growing White House cesspool .RESIST!

  3. Marsha Labodda Marsha Labodda

    I too am horrified to think what will happen to our intellectual freedoms if we “give” our current president this action. Congress seems hell-bent on taking away funding from the libraries and museums as well. It is a sad day for all of us should these items pass and become the new law.

  4. […] update on copyright issues currently of attention in Congress. Registrants were most interested in pending legislation regarding the appointment of the next Copyright Register, which would move that responsibility from […]

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