Magazine article American Libraries

Keep Copyright in the Library: Why the Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress

Magazine article American Libraries

Keep Copyright in the Library: Why the Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress

Article excerpt

The fate of the US Copyright Office is far from certain. This is what we know: In October 2016, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante resigned from her position, and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed an interim register. In December 2016, Hayden issued a call for feedback on how to best prioritize the role of the Copyright Office and the kind of expertise the public wishes to see in the new permanent register of copyrights (bit.ly/2nDk3sz). And in February 2017, US Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) reintroduced a bill that would move the office to the legislative branch.

The Copyright Office's future has sparked debate and controversy, specifically regarding the best location for the office. As librarians, we must seize this opportunity to advocate in favor of keeping the office within the Library of Congress (LC) and not, as some lawmakers would have it, as an independent agency under their purview.

The framers of the Constitution understood that in order to foster creativity, copyright must delicately balance the rights of content creators, publishers, and consumers. LC was the obvious partner for copyright, proliferating a universal collection of all published works through the mandatory deposit system. As the number of copyrights grew, so did the LC collection. Though the library ceased collecting every work, its current collection of more than 162 million items endures as a robust archive of culture and scholarship open to all.

Libraries are a trusted, neutral space where anyone in the community can go for unbiased information about anything, including copyright. A core part of my job as copyright librarian is to educate professors, students, and other librarians about their rights as authors, the limits of fair use, the appropriate boundaries of Section 108 rights, and how to obtain appropriate permissions and licenses from copyright holders. It's this neutrality that makes librarians natural allies of every party in the copyright relationship--even media companies--and it makes sense that the Copyright Office continue to be housed in a library. …

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