Chairman Nadler Statement at a Hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on oversight of the U.S. Copyright Office:
“Today’s hearing will allow us to assess the current state of the Copyright Office and the U.S. copyright system. Each year, core copyright industries employ 5.5 million workers, produce $1.2 trillion in economic activity, and generate roughly $180 billion in foreign sales. These industries also promote a wide range of artistic expression and intellectual thought.
“The Copyright Office plays a vital role in helping to uphold this system, and in helping to ensure that works are effectively protected by copyright. Maintaining this vibrant copyright ecosystem depends on having an effective Copyright Office to oversee it and we are pleased to be joined today by Karyn Temple, the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office.
“This Committee held its last Copyright Office Oversight hearing in 2015, and a lot has changed since then. Notably, last fall, Congress passed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, which provides critical updates to modernize the music licensing system and better serve both creators and digital music providers. This historic legislation, which I was proud to help author, assists digital music providers with the licensing of musical works, while also ensuring that performers, songwriters, and other music creators receive fair market value for their work.
“The Copyright Office is responsible for implementing several features of the Music Modernization Act, or MMA, including aspects of the blanket license established in Title I of the Act. The Office’s July 8th deadline to designate the Mechanical Licensing Collective and the Digital Licensee Coordinator created by the MMA is fast approaching. And so I look forward to hearing more about the status of the Copyright Office’s work in implementing these and other provisions.
“The Committee is also closely monitoring the Copyright Office’s much-needed efforts to modernize its IT systems. In recent years, we have heard a consistent message with respect to the Copyright Office—that the Office must be modernized to meet the needs of the public and the copyright community, and to reduce the backlog of pending registrations.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com, which held that registration—and not merely the filing of an application for registration—is necessary before a copyright owner can sue for copyright infringement, further underscores the need for modernization of the Office’s IT system.
“Following the Fourth Estate ruling, I wrote a letter, along with Ranking Member Collins, asking Ms. Temple about the Office’s plans for reducing registration processing times in light of that decision. I appreciated the thorough response, and her testimony on the same topic today, on the Office’s plans to speed up the registration process. These efforts should remain a top priority for the Office.
“Another timely issue is the upcoming expiration of the distant signal satellite television license at the end of this year, and whether Congress should reauthorize it. Ranking Member Collins and I also recently wrote Ms. Temple a letter on this topic. Again, I appreciate the thorough response, and I hope we will be able to explore more of the Office’s rationale for recommending that the license be allowed to expire in light of the changing media landscape.
“In addition, the Office has been studying the effectiveness of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Section 512 safe harbor provision. This issue exemplifies the critical role that copyright law plays in balancing the needs of rights-holders to receive value for their works and the interest of the public in having access to information. I look forward to learning more about the insights the Office has gained over the past few years in the forthcoming report.
“I thank Ms. Temple for being here today, I congratulate her on her recent permanent appointment as Register, and I look forward to her testimony on the important work of the Copyright Office.”