You may or may not be aware that just last month, the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, “reassigned” Maria Pallante from her position as Register of Copyrights. Following this shocking turn of events, Ms. Pallante resigned, finding she was literally locked out of her office and denied computer access.
Organizations who represent creators of creative works, including photographers, such as the National Press Photographers Association and the Professional Photographers of America worked closely with Ms. Pallante and her staff for almost six years on copyright law, upholding copyright principles and helping find ways to modernize the Copyright Office, have been dismayed at Dr. Hayden's actions.
Numerous members of Congress with oversight of the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office have expressed their displeasure at Dr. Hayden's actions. They've urged Dr. Hayden to work with Congress in selecting the next Register.
Rather than agree to work with Congress, Dr. Hayden created a Survey Monkey poll, in which anyone can participate, with little or no security to ensure the survey honestly reflects the position of both creative work providers and users, the results of which will be used to supposedly help “inform development of the knowledge, skills and abilities” Dr. Hayen is allegedly looking for in the next Register of Copyrights.
Many in the visual arts community including groups representing small creators of copyrightable content believe this is, as Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel of the National Press Photographers called it, “a thinly-veiled attempt to allow those seeking to weaken copyright protection to unduly influence the selection process by skewing the criteria in their favor.”
Mr. Osterreicher further said,
“We have seen this happen before with the demonization of proposed copyright protection bills, which were ultimately defeated by those with a mob mentality of entitlement to our work without permission, credit or compensation.”I urge every photographer, professional or amateur, to participate in Dr. Hayden's survey ASAP. The deadline to participate is January 31, 2017, but there is no time like the present to participate to help ensure the next Register of Copyright well represents us.
I have some suggested responses to the survey questions, but I certainly invite you to write your own response reflecting your opinions on what kind of person the next Register of Copyrights should be.
There is no doubt that there will be tens of thousands of responses by those who want a Register who has little understanding or sympathy for our rights as creators of copyrightable works. If we want to have any chance of keeping copyright protection strong, we need you to participate to let your voice be heard! I encourage you to ask your friends, family and colleagues to also participate.
Here are my suggested responses to the Librarian of Congress’ Register of Copyrights Survey questions:
- What are the knowledge, skills, and abilities you believe are the most important for the Register of Copyrights?
The next Register of Copyrights must be dedicated to ensuring a strong, healthy copyright system and Copyright Office. The Register must recognize and understand the important role that creators of copyrighted works play in creating the nation's financial well-being.
The Register must have considerable experience in copyright law, a strong commitment to it, and a substantial background in representing the interests of creators of copyrighted works.
The Register should possess a profound appreciation for the special and complex challenges, in the 21st century, facing individual and small business creators in protecting their creative work and therefore their livelihood.
The Register must possess a deep and incisive understanding of, and a strong commitment to, preserving the longstanding and statutorily-based functions of the Copyright Office, especially in advising the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on domestic and international copyright issues.
The Register must have the overwhelming support of the community of copyrightable content creators.
- What should be the top three priorities for the Register of Copyrights?
- A commitment to quickly modernizing the Copyright Office with a special focus and commitment to update and make the registration and recordation processes simpler and more affordable.
- Work with Congress to enact legislation creating a small claims process that finally provides individual creators with a viable means of protecting their creative efforts, and creating clearly defined copyright notice rules for electronically preserved content both visually on the content when and if displayed, and digitally in the content through metadata.
- Continue the traditional and critical role of the Register as a forceful advocate for both a vibrant copyright system and a strong Copyright Office that works closely with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in promoting a strong and effective copyright law.
- Are there other factors that should be considered?
As a creator of copyrighted work, I believe, to the extent possible, that the views of those whose works are protected by copyright law should be given significantly greater weight in this survey than those who are not. Without strong copyright protection, the number of the nation's creators and the number and quality of their works will quickly diminish as their work becomes devalued to the point they can't earn a reasonable living.
Moreover, it is crucial that the views of the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, be given great deference in the selection of the next Register.
For all artists, writers, journalists, composers, photographers, etc. I thank you for taking the time to express your opinion in this important survey to protect the human creative process, and therefore a critical piece of the nation's future.