Legislative agencies were established by Congress to assist by administering federal laws in different industries. Thus, legislative agencies are granted rulemaking authority, but their authority is limited by the industry of specific public service. Therefore, Congress uses the assistance of several different legislative agencies specialized in one field to create rules and laws on a highly informed basis. This essay will explore the history, functions, and rulemaking process of the Copyright Office legislative agency.
Firstly, copyright law presents a form of protection of intellectual property, making the Copyright Office a significantly important agency in the modern technology-driven age. The first federal copyright law was created in 1790, and for the next 100 years, the registration of copyright was administered by U.S. District Courts (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d.). The Copyright Office was established in 1870; then, the agency presented a part of the Library of Congress (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d.). However, in 1897 the Copyright Office legislative agency was recognized by Congress as a separate department (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d.). Now, the agency’s activity focuses on registering and storing information about copyright ownership and helping Congress solve copyright-related issues.
Furthermore, the Copyright Office’s functions focus on ensuring the fulfillment of the Constitutional purpose of copyright. Thus, the agency’s main purpose is to protect people’s intellectual property and provide support for the nation’s creativity and citizens’ freedom of expressing themselves. For this purpose, the agency administers the Copyright Law of the United States and constantly works on making valuable additions to the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. The Compendium presents a manual guidebook for copyright owners, authors, and law practitioners, which is also often used and cited by courts. In addition, the Copyright Office works in close cooperation with the Library of Congress and provides the agency with necessary information about works of authorship. Furthermore, the agency’s authority extends to acting as an advisor to Congress on copyright matters on an international scale. Thus, the Copyright Office’s work can also include analyzing foreign copyright laws, holding meetings with United States Trade Representatives and foreign delegations, and reviewing national trade policies.
Next, the Copyright Office’s recent activity primarily focuses on implementing a modernization program that prioritizes creating a new information system, the Enterprise Copyright System. The new system targets users’ easier registration application process and workflow automation for the agency (U.S. Copyright Office, 2021). Considering the nature of the agency’s work, a sophisticated information system that fulfills the needs of the agency and copyright owners is required for the overall productivity of the department. Therefore, the lack of an existing information system that fully meets the agency’s needs can be perceived as a weakness.
Furthermore, copyright use is gradually increasing in numbers with more products of intellectual property created with the use of technology. Combined with the agency’s broad specter of activity, the growing number of copyright-related issues can compromise or negatively influence its productivity, which also can be acknowledged as the agency’s weakness. However, the agency evaluated its possibilities and promptly addressed the lack of a sophisticated information system by implementing the modernization program. Furthermore, the agency plans to automate some of its processes through the new information system, which will significantly reduce the burden on the department. Thus, the agency’s ability to promptly assess its capabilities in meeting clients’ demands, identify potential threats, and manage the new information system’s implementation process can be perceived as Copyright Office’s strengths.
Next, considering the rulemaking process, the final rules present a result of joint efforts from the Copyright Office and the public members. The agency identifies potential areas for improvements in Copyright Law and policies and collects feedback on the issue from public members. Then, the agency compiles a comprehensive report on the subject which also features the feedback analysis and proposal of possible methods to improve the situation. Alternatively, Senators can request the agency to provide a report on Congress’ progress in fulfilling its obligations protecting the copyright. For example, in 2021, Senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis requested a report on copyright integration in the digital ecosystem and online copyright theft and later introduced the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 (Tillis and Leahy introduce bipartisan legislation, 2022). Thus, the rulemaking process involves cooperation between the Copyright Office, public members, and the Members of the Senate.
In conclusion, I think that the agency has accomplished its mission of protecting intellectual property and ensuring the fulfillment of the Constitutional purpose of copyright. The Copyright Office’s recent activity shows that the agency prioritizes the interests of the population in creating conditions that favor a more straightforward process of copyright registration. Thus, the agency is actively developing its presence in the online sphere and contributes to the overall digital ecosystem’s safety. Furthermore, the Copyright Office’s activity involves the public members’ perspective, resulting in a more informed basis for future laws. Lastly, participating in the discussion of international copyright claims allows the agency to constantly improve its awareness of relevant threats to copyright and take preventive measures.
U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). Overview of the Copyright Office.
U.S. Copyright Office. (2021). Annual Report.