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September Brings a New Phase of Operations and Continued Outreach Efforts

The following is a guest post by Maria Strong, Acting Register of Copyrights.

September brings a time of change. I’ve always seen this month as the start of a new year; I guess I still schedule things by the academic calendar. For government agencies, September is the last month of the fiscal year, and so we are working to close out one year and launch the next.

With September underway, this blog provides an update on our operating status along with a summary of updated Copyright Office activities of public interest. My August 3 blog reported on the many accomplishments and continuing challenges of the Copyright Office during these times of COVID-19. That report focused on actions we took during Phase One of our and the Library’s phased return to on-site operations.

The Copyright Office continues to be successful in ensuring that mission-critical functions are accomplished despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Phase Two of Our Measured Return to On-Site Operations

The Copyright Office recently initiated its Phase Two operations with the rest of the Library on August 24. The decision to move to Phase Two was based on the Library’s review of local health and safety conditions. Phase Two lifts the forty hours per pay period restriction for physical presence in the Library buildings; those staff whose duties require on-site work can now work on-site full-time (eighty hours per pay period). Requirements for physical distancing, pre-entry health checks, and safe operation of common equipment remain in force.

Returning staff encounter signage like this throughout the building.

As expected, our Phase Two operations added more staff members from those divisions already on-site plus a small contingent of examiners from the registration program and one staffer from Public Information and Education. We now have 116 employees on-site, or 26 percent of our staff, during Phase Two. To compare, we had 34 staffers when Phase One/Part One started on June 22 and 54 staffers when Phase One/Part Two started on July 20.

Not everyone is in the building full time; the hallways still feel quite empty. Some staffers are working full time on-site, while others are on rotating schedules in the building on a part-time basis. The on-site schedules are determined by the employee’s supervisor, evaluating the specific mission needs of each division. Enhanced teleworking continues. For those staff who are not scheduled to be on-site, building access on an intermittent basis is possible, but only for essential activities with the approval of the Acting Register.

Outreach and Engagement on Copyright and Copyright Office Activities

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Copyright Office, and we are actively expanding our outreach efforts. For example:

  • We have pulled together a variety of informational resources to help spark your creativity at our “Engage Your Creativity” page at https://www.copyright.gov/engage/.

We also have published videos of new educational material as well as recent public events, such as:

With respect to regulatory matters, the Office is very active on a number of fronts. For example, September 8 was the deadline for public responses to any petitions for renewal and also for written petitions proposing new exemptions in the section 1201 rulemaking. The Office continues its focus on a variety of other rulemakings, including with respect to registration options and implementation of the Music Modernization Act.

Standard Technical Measures Discussion on September 22, 23, and 29.

As part of our efforts to build upon and implement the recommendations in our report Section 512 of Title 17, the Office will be facilitating discussions among a wide range of stakeholders on ways to improve the current functioning of the notice-and-takedown system; the first of these will be a kickoff meeting to lay the groundwork for sustained engagement on standard technical measures. This effort will include three virtual public sessions, which will be held on September 22, 23, and 29. In addition, we are also nearing completion of building a new webpage on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on our website.

The Office also extended the temporary adjustments to certain timing provisions under the Copyright Act for persons affected by the COVID-19 national emergency as permitted under the CARES Act for an additional sixty days, through November 9, 2020.

To sum up, the Copyright Office continues to be extremely productive and proactive, not just in September, but this entire year. Kudos to our staff for their hard work and commitment.

Be well, stay safe, and thanks.

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