Here Chris Castle urges readers to support new bipartisan legislation making the Librarian of Congress a presidential appointment, as well as bringing about several other badly needed fixes to the position.
Guest post by Chris Castle of Music Technology Policy
I don’t often ask MTP readers for their vote, but I am asking you to call your member of Congress and ask them to support bipartisan legislation introduced by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, H.R. 1695, The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. (The “Register of Copyrights” is the official title of the head of the Copyright Office.)
Who can forget the summary firing of the (now former) Register of Copyrights, Maria A. Pallante by the rogue Librarian of Congress (however bizarre that sounds). This was clearly a retaliatory firing that I think would be a pretty good case against the Librarian if it were done the same way in the private sector or even if the head of the Copyright Office had the standard civil servant protections (which they don’t have). Even weirder, some of the shrill voices from the anti-artist librarian cluster actually came up with rationales for why retaliatory firing was just business as usual in Washington.
None of this creepy was lost on the Members of Congress, who actually labored under the impression that the Librarian of Congress worked for them and that the Register of Copyrights was supposed to give her best advice to the Congress based on her subject matter expertise, even if the Librarian disagreed with her. (In fact, the Librarian is reported to have told the Congress a few weeks ago that she intended to ignore their instruction and appoint the next Register without them.)
The twist is where a page of history is worth a volume of logic. Historically, the Copyright Office has always been part of the Library of Congress and the Librarian of Congress appointed the Register of Copyrights. That might have made sense at the dawn of the Republic, but it hasn’t made sense for a very long time. Register Pallante ran afoul of the Librarian (newly appointed herself) apparently because she pointed this out and supported legislation to change the Copyright Office structure, budget and role in favor of independence from the really and truly antiquated Library of Congress. (For background, see “And Your Little Dog, Too: The Librarian of Congress Gives Us A Lesson in Constructive Termination.“)
The Congress announced that the Librarian would not be allowed to replace the Register whom she fired so she could appoint a replacement. Reps. Goodlatte and Conyers introduced HR 1695 that would permanently fix this problem. Their bill makes the head of the Copyright Office a presidential appointment and has other sorely needed fixes. This is the bill we need to get passed to block the Librarian’s shenanigans.
Here’s the important thing–the bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee with an unprecedented bi-partisan vote of 27-1 (let us not dwell on who the 1 was who voted against).
Here’s who voted with us:
Rep. Karen Bass, D, CA-37
Rep. Steve Cohen, D, TN-09
Rep. John Conyers Jr., D, MI-13
Rep. Ted Deutch, D, FL-22
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D, TX-18
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D, WA-07
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D, NY-08
Rep. Ted Lieu, D, CA-33
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D, NY-10
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D, MD-08
Rep. Brad Schneider, D, IL-10
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D, CA-15
Rep. Andy Biggs, R, AZ-05
Rep. Ken Buck, R, CO-04
Rep. Doug Collins, R, GA-09
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R, FL-06
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R, TX-27
Rep. Trent Franks, R, AZ-08
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R, TX-01
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R, VA-06
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R, SC-04
Rep. Darrell Issa, R, CA-49
Rep. Mike Johnson, R, LA-04
Rep. Jim Jordan, R, OH-04
Rep. Raul Labrador, R, ID-01
Rep. Ted Poe, R, TX-02
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R, TX-04
The legislation has now passed to the House floor where the entire House of Representatives will eventually vote on it, perhaps as early as Tuesday, April 4th.
Now’s the time–if we lose this, two things will happen. It will potentially be really bad for us going forward plus the Librarian of Congress will have gotten away with some real back alley knifery.
Here’s what to do: First, remember this bill is just in the House of Representatives for now so don’t worry about the Senate side just yet. If you know who your Member of Congress is, call them up and tell them you want them to vote “YES” on HR 1695.
If you don’t know who your Member of Congress is, you can look them up on the House website by clicking here (have your zip code handy). Get that number and then call them and ask your representative to vote “YES” on HR 1695. (Call the Washington, DC office.)
Remember–you’ll be standing with everyone in the creative community who want this change as much as you do.
We owe a big thanks to Creative Future and the Copyright Alliance for working on this legislation and the best way to say thanks is to MAKE THOSE CALLS!!
Thank you, we always appreciate the way that MTP readers come through on these important ones.