Former US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante resigns from the Library of Congress

Former US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante resigns from the Library of Congress

Maria Pallante, the former US Register of Copyrights, who was removed from the US Copyright Office (USCO) last Friday and reassigned to an advisory role within the Library of Congress, has formally handed her resignation.

In an Oct. 24 letter, unveiled by The Hollywood Reporter, sent to the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, who oversees the USCO, Pallante wrote: “This will serve as my resignation effective October 29, 2016. I hope that you will respect that I do not accept the reassignment to work on Library matters that was announced on Friday.”  

Pallante wrote that one her focus in her six-year tenure as Register of Copyrights has been the modernisation of the USCO. “In pursuing this goal and addressing many other complex and challenging issues during my tenure, I have been deeply inspired by countless authors and innovators,” she wrote. “I will forever cherish the extraordinary opportunity I have had to serve my profession and this Nation.”  

In the letter, Pallante also confirms the news given by Billboard that she had been blocked from accessing her computer as she is asking Hayden “the reinstatement of access to my computer and email so that I may appropriately archive records and remove photos of my family.”  

The announcement that Pallante was removed from her office by Hayden on Friday Oct. 21 came as a shock to people in Washington, DC used to interact with the Copyright Office. Pallante was highly regarded in creative industries' circles in Washington, DC where he views on copyright issues were respected, even if they did not align with those of the music industry, for example. “That's tragic, this is nonsense – she was brilliant,” was how the chief executive of a non-US rights society reacted to the news when contacted by Music Week.  

Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of cross-industry advocacy group Copyright Alliance said in a statement that he was “surprised and concerned” by the news of Pallante's removal which comes “at a time when the Office and others are considering many potential changes to the copyright system and law.”  

Kupferschmid added, “As the national search for a new Register of Copyrights commences, we are committed to assisting the new Librarian and the Chairman and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees with this important process, and view it as an excellent opportunity to continue the dialogue on the future of the US Copyright Office. We support Karyn Temple Claggett’s appointment as the Acting Register and believe that her appointment will allow us all to be deliberate and take the time necessary to find the next Register.”

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued a joint statement in which they said that they are “saddened to learn that Maria Pallante, who served with distinction as only the 12th Register of Copyrights and the Director of the Copyright Office for the last five years, will be leaving the Copyright Office.” They describe her departure as “a tremendous loss for the Copyright Office and for America’s creators, innovators, and users of copyrighted works.”  

Goodlatte and Conyers closed their statement with what looks like a description of their ideal profile for the future Register of Copyrights: “As Maria transitions from the Copyright Office, it is the perfect opportunity to examine the selection process for the new Register. America’s creativity is the envy of the world and the Copyright Office is at the centre of it. We must ensure that any new Register is fully qualified to lead this important office as it continues to directly advise Congress on copyright policy and law. The new Register of Copyrights should be dedicated to protecting creative rights and modernising the Copyright Office.”

Pallante's removal by the Librarian of Congress is seen as a potential risk for copyright-driven industries as Hayden could be tempted to appoint someone who leans more on the copyleft side of the equation. The profile drafted by Goodlatte and Conyers looks like a preemptive strike. They reminded the Librarian of Congress that since the Register of Copyrights has the role of advising Congress, Congress also has a say in the way the Register will be selected.

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