Tell Congress Not to Make the Register of Copyrights a Presidential Pawn

The Senate is considering passing a bill which would turn the Register of Copyrights into a presidential appointee. The work of the Register is done best when it is not politicized, which is exactly what the so-called “Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act” would do.

Tell the Senate not to turn to turn the Register into a pawn of the President.

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The Register of Copyrights has two important, apolitical jobs: registering copyrightable works and providing information on copyright law to the government. Neither of these jobs is best served by a Register that is subject to the President’s agenda.

We’ve seen what results from a more politicized Copyright Office. Former register Maria Pallante ignored the Constitutional purpose of copyright—“to promote the progress of science and useful arts”—by proclaiming that “Copyright is for the author first and the nation second.” Pallante’s Copyright Office also supported the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), which would have created an online blacklist and been a disaster for free speech online. More recently, heavy lobbying by the MPAA lead the Copyright Office to undermine the FCC’s plan to bring competition to the cable box market.

A Register that is appointed by the President will be more influenced by politics, not less. It can be more easily controlled by media and entertainment companies that want to radically change how the Internet works and mandate things like the EU’s copyright filters. The Copyright Office could be used to have an enormous impact on how we interact with copyrighted works—music, movies, books, and the technology we now use to access them---it’s important that the Register remains a truly public servant.

The House of Representatives already passed the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. So it’s up to the Senate to say no. Tell your Senators not to turn the Register into a political appointee.