October 28, 2016 by
On Friday, October 21, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden summarily removed Maria Pallante as Register of Copyright and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, the position she had held since 2011. It was the first time the head of the Copyright Office had been removed in 119 years! Ms. Pallante was reassigned as an advisor to the Librarian. Associate Register Karyn Temple Claggett was appointed Acting Register.
On Monday, October 24, Ms. Pallante resigned, telling Dr. Hayden, “I hope you will respect that I do not accept the reassignment…that was announced on Friday.” Having been locked out of her computer, she also added, “I would be grateful for your accommodation as I say goodbye to colleagues and collect personal items this week, and would appreciate the reinstatement of access to my computer and emails so that I may appropriately archive records and remove photos of my family.”
We have no inside knowledge of what may have led to these abrupt changes. But real issues are stake in copyright policy, both at the Copyright Office and at the Library of Congress (of which the Copyright Office is a component).
More than twenty years ago, Maria Pallante served with distinction as the executive director of the NWU. Although her tenure with the NWU was relatively brief, we remember and honor her independence, her intelligence, and her ability to understand and work with our diverse membership — the same independence, intelligence, and ability to understand the perspectives of diverse interest groups that she demonstrated as Register of Copyright, and that has distinguished the work of the Copyright Office staff. We thank Maria Pallante for her contributions to our union, to the Copyright Office, and to the nation.
We have disagreed strongly with many of the proposals and recommendations made by the Copyright Office under Ms. Pallante, just as under her predecessors. Some of the priorities for our copyright advocacy are to oppose legislation the Copyright Office has proposed or endorsed during Ms. Pallante’s term, such as to create new exceptions to copyright to allow copying of so-called “orphaned” works without payment or permission of the writers , undercutting those writers’ incomes.
The NWU has never had any special access or influence at the Copyright Office. Nor should we. Nor should anyone else.
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