The following is a guest blog post by Ashley Tucker, a copyright registration specialist for the Visual Arts Division. For a deeper dive into the Office’s recent efforts to successfully improve registration pendency times, as well as a historical look at registration, see the Office’s response to Congressional letters received on March 14 and April 3 regarding registration processing times.
I was very excited to be selected as one of the twenty-five examiners hired by the Copyright Office in September of 2018. I am pleased to be a part of an incoming class of bright individuals with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and interests. For me personally, with a degree in English and creative writing, I have always been drawn to the historic institution of the Library of Congress. The Copyright Office particularly piqued my interested because of the way in which it provides timely and efficient services and support to authors, users of creative works, and Congress.
When I arrived at the Copyright Office, my first observation was of how supportive and collaborative the employees are with one another. I learned that the Office was in the process of reducing its backlog of claims and had already closed nearly 120,000 more claims in the year leading up to my arrival than previous years, and reduced the total number of workable claims by more than 72 percent! When walking around the office, I heard many interesting conversations about how to strategically approach various cases, updated policies and practices, and analyzing creative works. When hearing these conversations, I began to understand how the members of the registration program could make such great strides. I quickly realized that the Copyright Office is an academic but fast-paced environment, and I knew that this would be an ideal workplace for me.
I am currently in the midst of a year-long training program. We are following an intricate curriculum that is shaping us into copyright law experts. The Office has paired all new examiners with more senior examiners who work closely with our team leaders to serve as hands-on mentors, coaching us through the program and ensuring that our work is accurate and efficient. This is important since we are working on actual claims that applicants submit to the Office.
During the first six months of training, we worked on claims that spanned across the Literary, Performing Arts, and Visual Arts Divisions. At the end of that first six months, I was pleased to hear that our work really mattered! By March 2019, we had contributed to the Office’s efforts to reduce processing times, and the average processing time for all copyright claims dropped from eight to five months! This was great and encouraging news as we prepared to select and begin division-specific training. I have decided to work in the Visual Arts Division (VA). Early in my training, I was drawn to the analytical approach that VA entails. I also found that the division’s process-oriented teaching tactics align closely with my learning and working style.
In VA, I have enjoyed examining works of art ranging from logos to book illustrations to photography, and more. My favorite aspect of working in VA is analyzing artwork and making copyrightability decisions. To sharpen our copyrightability instincts, we are assigned “weekly teases” in addition to our daily work, where we are asked to use our evolving knowledge of the law to determine if a work is copyrightable. I have also enjoyed discussions about how practices have changed over time to streamline the registration process. For example, some of the new practices we learned––such as annotating the registration record when appropriate instead of writing––have helped the registration program reduce its correspondence rate from 31 percent to 24 percent. I realize through our discussions that this is important because it provides a more efficient public service without sacrificing the quality or accuracy of the examination process. This also helps me to understand how our day-to-day work fits into a much larger ongoing discussion about how the law and registration helps to protect and foster creativity.
I love serving as a copyright specialist, supporting the registration system, and playing an important role in the creative community. I look forward to further learning and growth as I continue my career in the registration program.