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The Copyright Office is on a Rulemaking Roll

The following is a guest post by Sarang Damle, General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights.

clippings of rulemaking notices

Rulemaking notices

Those of you who subscribe to our NewsNet service may have noticed that, over the past year, the Copyright Office has gone on a rulemaking tear. Under the leadership of Acting Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple Claggett, my incredible staff in the General Counsel’s office has been working hard to update outdated regulations, streamline interactions with the Office, and improve procedures in every part of the agency. In this fiscal year so far, we have issued seven final rules and six proposed rules, up from two final rules and three proposed rules in all of fiscal year 2016.

This work is just part of a years-long effort by the Copyright Office to establish more efficient business processes, and helps set the stage for our continued goal of Office modernization.

Here is a short summary of a handful of the rulemakings initiated by my team in our General Counsel’s office, with links for more information:

In connection with the Office’s comprehensive revision of its Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices in 2015, the General Counsel’s office began a quest to find every mistake in its regulations—every typo, every incorrect cross-reference, every outdated provision, and every mention of obsolete technologies like cablegrams. That effort culminated in February 2017 with the Office publishing its first comprehensive technical update to the Office’s regulations in at least a couple of decades.

In February 2015, the Copyright Office’s chief information officer issued a report making several recommendations for creating better user interactions with the Copyright Office, including the establishment of a short-term pilot using the Office’s existing registration system, allowing for the bulk submission of copyright claims from select parties. On May 9, 2017, the Office published a public notice announcing the initiation of the pilot program that will allow for the bulk submission of copyright registration applications in certain types of literary works.

Building off the 2014 report of the Office’s inaugural Kamenstein Scholar, Professor Robert Brauneis, and earlier rulemaking efforts, on May 18, 2017, the Office issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in anticipation of the development of a new online recordation system through which people can submit materials electronically, instead of in paper hardcopy as they currently do.

Although the Copyright Office has long had regulations to address interruption of postal and other physical delivery services, those regulations had never been updated to account for the Office’s development of electronic systems. Accordingly, following a March 2017 notice of proposed rulemaking, on May 19, 2017, the Office adopted a final rule to address the effect of a disruption or suspension of any Office electronic system on the Office’s receipt of applications, fees, deposits, or other materials.

rulemaking text and computer screen showing online form

Statement of Account rulemaking

The Office’s procedures for submission of statements of account by cable systems operating under the section 111 statutory license have long been paper-driven, requiring handwritten signatures and physical delivery to the Copyright Office. As part of ongoing efforts to streamline processes within the Office’s Licensing Division, on May 19, 2017, the Office adopted a final rule to allow cable systems operating under the statutory license to electronically sign Statements of Account, and to submit these documents to the Office electronically.

As you can see, in many cases the Office’s efforts have been years in the making, and I have been pleased to work with the Acting Register to further the Office’s modernization efforts. The Office has been delighted to see how well-received our efforts have been. We’re also eager to get to work on even more improvements in the coming months!

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The following is a guest post by Brad Greenberg, counsel in the U.S. Copyright Office, Office of Policy and International Affairs. Copyright law and new technologies have a long history, arguably dating back to the Gutenberg Press in the 15th century—more than 200 years before passage of the matriarch of copyright statutes, Britain’s Statute of […]

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Separability Analysis in its Ruling on Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc.

The following is a guest post by Rachel E. Fertig, a 2015–2017 Barbara A. Ringer Copyright Honors Fellow, serving as an attorney-advisor in the Office of General Counsel and Office of Policy & International Affairs. The Supreme Court’s March 22 opinion in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. answered a question that has perplexed […]