Public Knowledge Launches Report on Systemic Bias at the U.S. Copyright Office

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Today we’re releasing our newest report, “Captured: Systemic Bias at the U.S. Copyright Office.” This report examines the role of industry capture and the revolving door between the major entertainment industries and the Copyright Office, and the implications that capture has had on the policies the Office embraces. In the report, we investigate how the Copyright Office:

  • Regularly contorts basic questions of copyright law in ways that further the monopoly interests of major rightsholders;
  • Advocates for expanded copyright with fewer limitations, exceptions, and consumer protections;
  • Strives to insert itself into more and farther-flung policy debates, claiming “expertise” and issuing decisions on topics far beyond its mandate;
  • Makes decisions based on predetermined outcomes, prioritizing its own views over input from non-self-interested stakeholders; and
  • Is frequently overturned or ignored by courts, Congress, and other agencies.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Advocate at Public Knowledge:

“The Copyright Office is one of the starkest examples of a captured agency operating within the government today. With limited accountability a pattern of favoritism toward industry and rightsholder groups, it is unsurprising that they have staked out tenuous positions and advocate for expansive copyright monopolies. It is clear from its positions--both implicit and stated--that the Copyright Office often acts more as an advocate for profit-maximizing entertainment industries, rather than as an impartial organ of government.

“It is clear that the Office has grand visions of its own position within policy debates, no matter how passingly they touch on copyright issues. The Copyright Office not only embraces, but actively furthers its mission creep. In the last year alone, we have seen it opine on everything from farm equipment, to emissions standards, to antitrust market analysis, to aerospace safety specifications, to broadcast rules. Its desire for relevance, left unchecked, represents a worldview in which all policy debates are treated as secondary to the interests of monopoly rightsholders to maximize control over, and extract maximum profit from, their creations.

“To even begin to address the Copyright Office’s systemic problems, we must, as a nation, have a serious discussion about the Office’s relationship to industry, its accountability, and its intended role within the government.”

You may view the report here.

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