It is an honor and pleasure to reintroduce myself to you as the United States Register of Copyrights. As the Supreme Court has said, copyright is intended to be the “engine of free expression.” The copyright system provides a critical framework to support creativity, culture, innovation and, yes, “free expression,” to the benefit of the public. The U.S. Copyright Office stands directly in the center of this crucial legal framework as the principal federal entity charged with administering the nation’s copyright law and supporting the vibrancy of American creativity and culture.
For years, the Copyright Office has served the American public and citizens around the world by spearheading updates to our copyright laws, registering and recording information related to millions of copyrighted works, and providing outreach and education on what can sometimes be a very complex legal regime. We have been lucky to have the insight and talents of a number of prior Registers like Barbara Ringer who served as a principal drafter of the 1976 Copyright Act, Ralph Oman who recognized the importance of international copyright issues and helped the United States accede to the Berne Convention, Marybeth Peters who first ushered the registration system into the electronic age, and Maria Pallante who helped launch the recent Congressional review of copyright law with her significant speech “The Next Great Copyright Act.”
I am extremely honored to join this illustrious and talented list of individuals as your 13th Register of Copyrights.
Full Steam Ahead
So, what plans do I have for the Copyright Office as we move forward “full steam ahead?”
First, and foremost, recognizing the Office’s important and very talented staff, I want to ensure that the Office is a place that our staff can feel proud of when they come to work. That means attracting and retaining the very best, and fostering an Office culture of high-quality service, professionalism, equality, and respect. This will not only bring significant benefits to those working here, but will also benefit the public who rely so heavily on the Office’s day-to-day work. We will continue to focus on the training, professional development, and growth of our staff.
Second, I am committed to ensuring that the Office continues its forward trajectory on modernization—taking advantage of advancements in technology and acknowledging the changing needs of our customers. The Office’s modernization efforts will include not just information technology but also improvements in regulatory and business practices, organizational change management, and external outreach. All along the way, we will engage and inform the public of our progress and seek your input to ensure that we are modernizing the Office in ways that will benefit you directly.
Third, the Office will continue to play a preeminent role in the development of copyright policy, working closely with Congress to update our laws as needed, while recognizing the unique needs of individual artists and authors. In January, the Office released a letter to Congress on the special challenges facing visual artists and recommending certain improvements to the copyright system. In April, the Office will release its final report on the issue of moral rights for authors, which will include a discussion of the important need for authors to be identified as the creators of their works. Finally, in the coming days, the Office will release its Strategic Plan for 2019–2023, identifying six specific focus areas: (1) information technology modernization; (2) optimizing business processes; (3) organizational change management; (4) education and engagement; (5) impartial expertise on copyright law and policy; and (6) measuring success. These focus areas will serve as the Office’s strategic framework as we complete a wide variety of important modernization initiatives in the coming years.
So stay tuned, we’re on the fast track!