It’s Time to Modernize the Copyright Office - American Commitment

By Holly Wilson
It’s time to talk about Copyright Office modernization. Why is this topic so important? Because, based on a study released last year by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the core copyright industries now contribute more than $1 trillion to our GDP annually, account for over 6.7 percent of the entire economy, and employ nearly 5.5 million workers. They have a huge economic impact and continue to grow at a rate 70 percent faster than the rest of the economy.
The House Judiciary Committee has undertaken a comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law under Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and while many of the issues are highly controversial, one area of consensus-driven reform is clear: fixing the Copyright Office itself.
Unfortunately, the Copyright Office is stuck in the past. As currently structured within the Library of Congress, the agency is unable to keep pace with both the rate and complexity of growth in these ever-changing industries. This ultimately slows down innovation and progress. For example, the average e-Filed copyright request takes approximately 8 months to be processed, while paper forms can take more than 13 months. That’s a long time in a digital, fast-paced economy. Something clearly needs to change.
Recently, senior Judiciary Committee members Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced a discussion draft of the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act, which seeks to address some of the most problematic aspects of the Copyright Office’s operation. We are encouraged by this positive step forward and urge Congress to thoroughly and carefully evaluate the state of the Copyright Office while seeking to bring it into the 21st century.
By modernizing the agency in a strategic way – providing the tools and autonomy from the Executive branch and Library of Congress necessary for them to do their jobs – we will be allowing the agency to keep pace with the demand for their services, remove barriers to innovation and growth, and enable them to react nimbly to changes in technological and digital trends.
As legislators continue to discuss this issue, we urge Members to consider the need for timelier and more innovative services that improve effectiveness and efficiency and remove obstacles to growth.