Congress wrapped up a two-year series of hearings on copyright reform in May, and one of the central issues at those hearings—Copyright Office modernization—is already a step closer to solution. Thursday, Reps. Tom Marino and Judy Chu released a discussion draft of a bill that would give the Copyright Office the independence and autonomy it needs to effectively serve U.S. copyright holders in the digital age.

Most importantly, the proposed bill would establish the U.S. Copyright Office as an independent agency. Currently, the Office is housed in the Library of Congress, which is problematic for a host of reasons, including the Library’s control of the Office’s budget, the fact that the Office is beholden to the Library’s inadequate IT infrastructure, and the potential for conflicts of interest between the Library and the copyright community.

copyright sealThe Office’s independence would manifest itself in another key proposal of the bill, which would allow the Copyright Office to physically move out of the Library of Congress and into a new federal building. The draft bill also suggests that the President would appoint, subject to Senate consent, a Director of the Copyright Office (replacing the office of Register of Copyrights) to serve one 10-year term.

Other proposals include a much-needed overhaul of the copyright registration system, and a required study of the mandatory deposit provisions, which were originally intended to help the Library of Congress build its collection, but are quite outdated now that most copyright applicants would prefer to send electronic copies to the Copyright Office for registration purposes.

The Authors Guild applauds Reps. Marino and Chu for their recognition that Copyright Office modernization is a threshold issue for lasting copyright reform, and for the swift step they’ve taken towards making a 21st century Copyright Office a reality. We’ll be sending Congress a formal letter of support for their proposals.