A bill was formally introduced in Congress on March 23, 2017, that would, in effect, remove the Copyright Office from the oversight of the Librarian of Congress. Introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Ranking Member John Conyers of Michigan, H.R. 1695 seeks to amend 17 U.S.C. § 701 and change the way the Register of Copyrights is appointed. Rather than continuing to be a direct hire of the Librarian of Congress, the Register of Copyrights would, under the new legislation, be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Under the current law, the Register is appointed by, and serves at the sole discretion of, the Librarian of Congress, under whose purview the Copyright Office falls. The proposed Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act limits the Register to a 10-year term that is renewable by another presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The new act would also give the president the authority to terminate the Register’s services at any time. The much-anticipated bill was the product of bipartisan and bicameral discussion, according to the press release from the House Judiciary Committee. Besides Goodlatte and Conyers, the bill has 29 co-sponsors.
Karyn Temple Claggett is the acting Register of Copyrights. She was appointed in October 2016 after Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden abruptly removed Maria Pallante as Register and reassigned her to a senior advisor position at the Library of Congress. Some speculate that H.R. 1695 is a response to that action.
Contrary to the legislators’ statements leading up to the bill, H.R. 1695 does not include provisions to shift the office outside the Library of Congress.