Dec 14 2015

Copyright Office Lays Out Technology Upgrade Plan, Pushes for Tech and Data Workers

The U.S. Copyright Office’s director says the agency needs more technical workers to fulfill its mission in the digital age.

The U.S. Copyright Office needs to get beyond technology breakdowns from earlier this year and hire more tech and data experts to its staff, according to the agency’s director. The office also needs to overhaul its technology and has put forth a plan to do so.

During a Dec. 2 hearing of the House Administration Committee, U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante said that the Copyright Office needs to transform its workforce. “It used to be catalogers. Now it needs to be technology and data [experts],” Pallante said of the agency’s hiring needs. “I don’t know how we can administer the law without it.”

The office’s staff examines and registers hundreds of thousands of copyright claims every year, notes NextGov, as book authors, music artists, software makers and other creators of intellectual property submit their work.

Pallante said the office would like to eventually “morph” about a third of its employees (about 150 workers), into tech and data experts. “These experts should not merely be assigned or on-call from another part of the agency, but rather be integrated into the copyright office mission where they can work side by side with legal and business experts,” Pallante said.

A New Plan for the Copyright Office

As FedScoop notes, the day before the hearing the Copyright Office released its five-year strategic plan. The report includes six key priorities, one of which is to “build a robust and flexible technology enterprise that is dedicated to the current and future needs of a modern copyright agency.”

The Copyright Office is seeking to deploy “enterprise architecture and infrastructure” that “will support high availability, high performance, and highly secure services that integrate cloud and mobile technologies.” Further, the office wants to “analyze requirements for premium on-premises and off-premises hosting solutions for copyright systems” and “adopt industry technology standards, architectures, and cloud services that will offer compatibility with current and future technologies.”

Additionally, the another key priority from the report is to “recruit a diverse pool of legal, technology, and business experts, including a dedicated career staff, non-career professionals, contractors, and advisory committees.”

“It will take the combined efforts of government leaders and private sector talent to create a lean, nimble, results-driven, and future-focused Copyright Office,” the report notes. “The Office will call upon experts in the legal, technology, and business fields to complement its work and provide services through advisory roles, special programs, and partnerships.”

Seeking Autonomy from the Library of Congress

Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao sat beside Pallante at the hearing, FedScoop reports. The Library of Congress, which is the parent agency of the Copyright Office, came under criticism in March in a report from the Government Accountability Office. The report called out the Library for “widespread weakness” in handling its technology resources and investments, and cited a “lack of strong, consistent leadership” in these areas.

Pallante said that the Copyright Office is “asking for is the autonomy to make sure that IT is intertwined with our business and legal expertise.” According to FedScoop, a few House lawmakers have drafted a bill to make the office an independent agency, but the legislation has not yet been formally introduced.

The Copyright Office’s strategic plan said the office “will employ sound policies for the acquisition and management of technology investments.” The office intends to “strengthen the procedures for proposing, reviewing, and finalizing technology investments from across the Copyright Office.” And it will “refine the charter and protocols for submitting proposals to the Copyright Office CIO, ensuring a comprehensive review of key elements, including costs, life-cycle, and implementation.”

Mao highlighted improvements the Library has made in response to the GAO report, according to FedScoop, and said the Library was working on a strategic plan, which it plans to release by the end of the year, for addressing GAO’s recommendations.

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