Director of Information Policy Brandon Butler has Advice for U.S. Copyright Office and Congress

In a new article, “Library Experts Weigh in On Next Register of Copyrights” (Library Journal 1/12/2017), UVA Library Director of Information Policy Brandon Butler joins with Harvard University Copyright Advisor Kyle K. Courtney; Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow Mary Minow; and University of Kansas Libraries Dean Kevin Smith, in urging the next Register of Copyrights to consider the public interest as much as holders’ rights when advising Congress. The article follows the October resignation of former Copyright Register Maria Pallante, who has since been hired as president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.

According to Butler, the Copyright Office should focus less on advisory responsibilities, and more on its “core purpose: registering copyrights.” “Searching for information about copyrighted works should be as easy as finding a book in a library catalog (which is one reason the Office could benefit from living inside the Library of Congress).” The challenge for the new Register, says Butler, should be to get “all the relevant data in digital form and release an API so the public can build tools on top of it … Such a system would facilitate licensing deals and help to define the public domain, big wins for all.”

On December 14, 2016 Butler drafted a letter to the Committee for the Judiciary, signed by “42 copyright lawyers, scholars, and expert librarians who work in and for libraries,” arguing against a proposal to relocate the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress to the legislative branch. Butler notes that “the Office’s location reflects the importance a free country should attach to a national library with a broad, deep, and well-described collection,” and states that “Interference in this long-running relationship would be ill-advised.”

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