Eroding Copyright – The Copyright Office Coup

by Matthew Innis |

On October 28, 2016, the Illustrators Partnership sent out the following email:

“Days after U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante was moved out of her job…lawyers and lobbyists are still trying to figure out what happened, as well as what it means for the future,” according to a Tuesday update by Robert Levine in Billboard.  


The article also suggests, as many here have speculated, that Pallante’s “sudden removal [by Dr. Carla Hayden, newly-appointed Librarian of Congress] could suggest a more skeptical view of the value of intellectual property in Washington DC.

“‘People I know who care about copyright are very disturbed,” says Marybeth Peters, Pallante’s predecessor as Register, who held the job from 1994 to 2010. “Nothing like this has ever happened there before.'”

Billboard confirms that “Pallante…was locked out of the Library of Congress computer system [on Friday], a step that several former Copyright Office staffers say is extremely unusual.”

Pallante refused a subordinate “reassignment” to serve under Hayden and submitted her resignation Monday, October 24.

Billboard notes that various lawmakers involved with drafting copyright policy have expressed “concern” and “implied” “displeasure” about the coup, but states that “Public Knowledge, a nonprofit organization that receives some of its funding from technology companies, tweeted that this represents ‘a great opportunity to bring balance to the [Copyright] Office’s policy work.’ ” As the website Trichordist has previously reported, “in the last two months the main Google mouthpiece in Washington DC Public Knowledge has been clamoring for her [Pallante’s] head.”

For over a decade the Illustrators Partnership has been warning that the lobbying effort by Big Tech companies to “bring balance” to copyright “policy” is, in fact, “a proposal for a radically new copyright law,” as we said in our
Senate testimony April 6, 2006.

The goal of copyright “reformers” has been to invert the premise of copyright law, making public access to creators’ work the law’s main function, and requiring creators to register each and every work they wish to retain any commercial or personal interest in.

The Billboard article suggests that the new Librarian of Congress may share this ideological goal:

“Although Hayden spoke about the importance of copyright during her confirmation hearings, she is perceived to favor looser copyright laws, since she previously served as president of the American Library Association, an organization that lobbies for greater public access to creative works, sometimes a[t] the expense of creators. The Obama Administration also has close ties to technology companies, which would like to see a Copyright Office that values fair use and other exceptions to copyright over the rights of creators and copyright owners.”

To read the full Billboard article, go here.

The first email, from October 23, 2016, read as follows:

Last Friday, the head of the US Copyright Office was removed in a surprise action by the newly-appointed Librarian of Congress.

According to the entertainment industry newspaper Variety:

“Maria Pallante is out at [sic] the U.S. Register of Copyrights and is moving to a new post, a Friday announcement that was met with surprise by trade associations and other groups in Washington. The change was made by Carla Hayden…who was only recently confirmed as Librarian of Congress.”

“Pallante was locked out of her computer [Friday] morning,” reports Billboard, citing “two sources who spoke with Library employees.”

“Earlier, Hayden had called several members of Congress to tell them about her decision. Later, she called the heads of several media business trade organizations to give them the news, according to one who received such a call…Hayden, as the librarian of Congress, has the authority to make a new appointment without congressional review.”

The website Trichordist: Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet

warns that:
“These are dark days for all creators and copyright holders.  After a two month campaign by Google funded astroturf group Public Knowledge, the newly appointed librarian of congress Carla Hayden [an advocate of “open sourcing”] has fired Maria Pallante the register of copyright. Pallante was the only one standing between Google and what is left of the copyright system.

“This firing is virtually unprecedented in US history. The Librarian of Congress generally leaves the Register of Copyrights to run the affairs of the copyright office. However in the last two months the main Google mouthpiece in Washington DC Public Knowledge has been clamoring for her head.”

More details aArtist Rights Watch.
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