In the News: U.S. Copyright Office 2.0

The United States Copyright Office is reimaging itself—literally. Called the Copyright Office Modernization, this initiative is a multi-year effort to transform the Office’s information technology, including registration, recordation, access to public records and information available to the public. The goals, according to the Office, are to 1) build a new enterprise copyright system featuring a user-centered and flexible design; 2) streamline processes and policies; 3) improve access; and 4) reimagine the entire Office. Simply, the Office aims to make copyright information more accessible and improve all the Office’s services.

Coming soon, visitors to the Office website (Copyright.gov) will notice adjustments to the “look and feel of the Office’s online presence and applications,” which are supposed to make the site more user-friendly, thus resulting in fewer errors and faster service (see “Copyright Office Modernization.”) The “Copyright Office Modernization Quick Facts—December 2018” could be a great example of what’s to come: a snazzy, full-color facts sheet with a modern, digital design.

Specifically, the Office will be, among other things, automating copyright ownership changes; conducting usability testing on new registration platforms; converting paper-based, pre-1978 records into digital format; updating the Office online Virtual Card Catalog; and reviewing staff responsibilities.

A timely complement to the Copyright Office Modernization initiative is the Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump October 11, 2018. The enacted legislation is a long-awaited effort by songwriters, publishers, artists, record labels, digital services, libraries, and the U.S. Copyright Office to better facilitate music licensing by digital services. Some aspects of the legislation were implemented immediately; some will be introduced over time. For example, right now, the Office no longer accepts notices of intention to obtain a compulsory license for making and distributing digital phonorecords of nondramatic musical works (NOIs), such as in the form of a permanent download, limited download, or interactive stream and, in the future, the Office will create regulations establishing the form, content, and procedures for the filing of contact information by an entity that performs pre-1972 sound recordings by means of digital audio transmission.

The Music Modernization Act is a final result of a comprehensive review of the U.S. copyright laws, congressional hearings on the music industry and music licensing framework studies.  According to the Office, the Act is one of the most significant pieces of copyright legislation in decades. —Ginny Guidry