Hayden Should Usher In Era of Needed Changes to Copyright Office

President Obama recently nominated Dr. Carla Hayden as the nation’s next Librarian of Congress. Dr. Hayden’s credentials are impressive, and if confirmed, she will become America’s first woman, and first African-American, to hold the post. Among the librarian’s many critical job responsibilities is jurisdiction over the Copyright Office — a service unit of the Library of Congress that is in need of an upgrade to better reflect today’s digital ecosystem.

Dr. Carla Hayden (Photo courtesy of City of Baltimore)

Dr. Carla Hayden (Photo courtesy of City of Baltimore)

Dr. Hayden’s pending confirmation could usher in much-needed reform to the Copyright Office. The appointment comes after criticism last year from the Government Accountability Office that the Library of Congress suffers from a lack of leadership that failed to address systemic information technology problems. Rather than resist the changes that technology has brought about, the next Librarian of Congress must take advantage of how new technologies can be used to better serve the American public.

Specifically, we hope that a reformed Copyright Office will seek to balance different interests by giving equal consideration to authors, licensees, and the general public. The next Librarian of Congress must also improve the copyright database to make it more accessible, transparent, up-to-date, and compatible for the digital age. Outdated, hard-to-access records make users and licensees more vulnerable to predatory litigation, which stifles innovation and economic growth. The Alliance also hopes Dr. Hayden will bring fairness to the fee process so that the full cost is not imposed solely on those wishing to access the database. If confirmed, Dr. Hayden should use her unique experiences to address these issues and improve the system for all who use it.

America’s Library represents freedom of information and knowledge, and maintains records of American ingenuity and innovation. These bedrock values of our democracy allow creators to innovate and develop new solutions and products. Dr. Hayden also recognizes that libraries are “the heart of the community,” and as CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, she kept libraries open through the city’s unrest while focusing on expanding the library’s role to a place for people to safely congregate.

As an outspoken opponent of the USA Patriot Act, Dr. Hayden has also exhibited an understanding of privacy in the digital age. While president of the American Library Association, she advocated for the right to “fully and freely access information and to pursue knowledge, without fear of repercussion.” The next Librarian of Congress must similarly embrace transparency and the freedom to access information — values that Dr. Hayden has embodied throughout her career.

Innovative companies like Pandora, Spotify, and Hitch Radio are changing the way people listen to music. To meet this growing market demand, the Copyright Office must similarly adapt in innovative ways. Dr. Hayden’s dedication to libraries as a building block for innovation, her history of improving transparency for the American public, and her actions to ensure equal access to information make her well-suited to effectuate change in the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office. We hope the Senate will give careful consideration to Dr. Hayden’s appointment.

Jarrod Nagurka
U.S. Policy and Government Relations Associate