Washington, D.C. — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (H.R. 1695).
Chairman Goodlatte: Intellectual property is a critical and growing part of our nation’s economy and the Register of Copyrights has a crucial role in the numerous copyright policy issues that impact it.
Four years ago, the Judiciary Committee began considering how to modernize our nation’s copyright laws including how the Copyright Office is structured. Making the Register position subject to the nomination and consent process with potential candidates identified by a Congressional selection panel was among the many issues considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
Because the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office – who has an equally important voice on patent and trademark issues – is already subject to the nomination and consent process, it provided a precedent for this approach.
However, unlike the Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Office is part of the Legislative Branch. Thus, it is appropriate to also follow the precedent set for other Legislative Branch agencies that gives Congress a greater say in selecting candidates for the heads of Legislative Branch entities to ensure those agencies are more accountable to Congress.
Because the Register position is now vacant, filled on an acting capacity by a well-regarded Acting Register, Ranking Member Conyers and I introduced this bipartisan legislation to update the Register selection process. To mirror a recent change to the Librarian of Congress position that is now subject to a 10-year term limit, the legislation also makes the Register of Copyrights position subject to a 10-year term limit.
The selection panel would be bipartisan and would consist of leaders of the Majorities and Minorities of the House and Senate, and would also include the Librarian of Congress.
In the past, the authority of the Register of Copyrights to issue rulemakings has been challenged in the courts because the Register is not subject to the nomination and consent process. This legislation would remedy that question once and for all.
H.R. 1695 was reported by the House Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 27-1. In addition to strong support from traditional copyright groups such as the Copyright Alliance and the publishing, movie, music, and software industries, the bill has been supported by a wide range of diverse groups such as the American Conservative Union, the AFL-CIO, Heritage Foundation Scholars, the Director’s Guild, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, MANA the Mexican American Latina Organization, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.
With such strong support from a wide range of over 70 groups and a vacancy at the Register of Copyrights that needs to be quickly filled under the new process created by this legislation, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1695.