Statement of Marybeth Peters
The Register of Copyrights
before the
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch,
Committee on Appropriations

United States House of Representatives
110th Congress, 1st Session

March 20, 2007

Future of Digital Libraries

Madame Chair Wasserman Schultz, Mr. Wamp and members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here to talk about three important copyright activities, but first some background. The Copyright Office registers copyright owners' claims in their works of authorship; this involves the submission of an application, the appropriate fee and copies of the work being registered. For works published in the United States, two copies of the best published edition must be submitted. These copies are available to the Library for its collections and exchange programs; they form the core of the Library’s Americana collections and serve as the primary record of American creativity. Last fiscal year the Office transferred well over one million copies to the Library, valued at more than $41 million.

Increasingly works were being created digitally and disseminated only online. This led to our first major effort reengineering the Office to accommodate the digital world. In 2000 we began development of a new system to allow us to receive applications for registration, fees and copies of digital works electronically. Acquisition of born digital works for the Library is a key goal.

After seven years and much effort, our new electronic service, eCO, will be launched this summer. The registration system will allow the receipt and processing of materials electronically; the searching system will allow applicants to track the progress of their claims and to search the records of all works registered since 1978, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

We have reorganized the entire office to align jobs with our new processes, and have engaged in, and continue to provide, training to prepare employees for their new positions and duties. Our facilities in the Madison Building are being modernized, and the Architect of the Capitol is on schedule. Completion is expected this summer when 400 employees will move back to the Madison Building from temporary facilities in Crystal City. More than 100 employees are already located in their new facilities.

Our second initiative is digitizing the pre-1978 registration records, 70 million of them, thereby preserving them and making them accessible online. These records are vital to the missions of the Library and the Copyright Office; additionally, they are important to the public and our copyright industries which represent a significant part of the U.S. economy. These records reflect the copyright status of millions of works as well as the ownership of them. Phase I involves merely digitizing the records; Phase II will add item level indexing and enhanced searching and retrieval capability.

Third, legislative changes to the copyright law are needed. First, we need to amend the law to give the Library of Congress additional flexibility to acquire the digital version of a work that best meets the Library’s future needs, even if that edition has not been made available to the public. Second, section 108 of the law, which provides limited exceptions for libraries and archives, does not adequately address many of the issues unique to digital media—not from the perspective of copyright owners; not from the perspective of libraries and archives. In 2005, the Office of Strategic Initiatives’ Preservation Program, in cooperation with the Copyright Office, created the Section 108 Study Group, composed of representatives of various groups of copyright owners, libraries, archives and museums. This group is reexamining the current law, preparing findings and making recommendations to amend the law to reflect today’s digital environment. The goal is to strike an appropriate balance between copyright owners and libraries and archives in a manner that best serves the public interest. The group’s report will be submitted to the Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights in the second half of 2007. Hopefully, legislation action will follow.