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Copyright Office Remake Bill Introduced

A trio of representatives has introduced a bill that would update the U.S. Copyright Office and make it a standalone agency within the legislative branch rather than a part of the Library of Congress, and with a director who, by law, has a background in copyright law.

Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) have introduced the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act.

A draft of the bill was circulated in June, when the legislators billed it as crucial to give the office the autonomy it needs to administer the Copyright Act.

They have signaled the change could be a tough sell.

The bill:

1. Establishes the U.S. Copyright Office as an independent agency.

2. Provides that the President will appoint a director for one 10-year term upon the advice of a bipartisan, bicameral commission, and with consent of the Senate.

3. Transfers administrative functions and legal duties from the Library to the Copyright Office.

4. Allows the Copyright Office to deliver any and all communications directly to the legislative branch, free of executive review.

The Motion Picture Association of America applauded the bill's introduction. "We thank Reps. Marino, Chu, and Comstock for advancing the conversation on Copyright Office modernization," MPAA said in a statement. "The importance of copyright to our culture and our economy demands a more autonomous Copyright Office that has the flexibility it needs to serve copyright owners and users.”

The Newspaper Association of America offered its strong support. “There have been troubling aspects of the registration process that have made it difficult for newspapers to protect their content,” said NAA president David Chavern of the bill's introduction and referral to committee. “For example, registration of print newspapers through the Copyright Office is currently submitted in microfilm format. This is grossly out of touch with today’s technology. We urge Congress to consider this legislation and the issues raised by the newspaper industry expeditiously and with a vision toward the future of journalism.”