A Dozen Organizations File Comments Opposing Copyright Office’s Plan to Undermine Section 512

I recently posted about the Copyright Office’s proposed new prices for designating 17 USC 512 agents for notice. While the proposed price reduction sounded good, the announcement obscured the real news: the Copyright Office still wants to nix valid designations that don’t jump through newly imposed renewal hurdles. This is contrary to comments I helped submit to the Copyright Office in 2011, and the Copyright Office’s intransigence (and glacial pace) suggested we needed to remind them that this idea sucks.

Working with Corynne McSherry of EFF and Rebecca Tushnet (in this case in her capacity as a representative of the Organization of Transformative Works/OTW), we submitted new comments to the Copyright Office that were joined by 10 other organizations. Our comments conclude:

Congress expected service providers to satisfy agent designation formalities initially, but Congress did not indicate that it wanted legitimate businesses to forfeit safe harbor protection due to simple mechanical mistakes or inattention to ongoing formalities. Therefore, the Copyright Office should ensure that no service provider will forfeit a valid agent designation for failing to take future steps or pay additional fees; or at minimum it should add a cost-effective option letting providers make only a single one-time registration permanently effective.

Section 512 is under significant stress in the courts and copyright owners are targeting it in Congress, so it may feel quaint to worry about a seemingly minor administrative change. But the substantive consequences of the Copyright Office’s proposal are potentially devastating and not offset by any gains to anyone else, so this idea needs to be squashed if we care about preserving what’s left of 17 USC 512.