The Obama Administration has announced that Carla Hayden will be its nominee as the fourteenth U.S. Librarian of Congress. This is a position with great influence on copyright law, and, therefore of considerable interest to Entertainment Law practitioners.
She would replace James H. Billington, who was nominated by President Reagan and has come under fire for failing to keep up with technological advancements. Hayden must confirmed by the U.S. Senate, not an easy task these days. She would be the second professional librarian to hold the position, and her nomination has been applauded by both the American Library Association and the American Association of Law Libraries.
The U.S. Copyright Office, which administers and records copyrights and provides public services about these key elements of intellectual property law, is part of the Library of Congress. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African-American to be the congressional librarian. She also has deep experience updating library technology, sure to be a priority after the widespread criticism of her predecessor.
Hayden has served as the longtime head of Baltimore’s library system, the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She was named National Librarian of the Year in 1995, and was honored as recently as last year for keeping Baltimore’s libraries open during the riots.
Of interest to Entertainment attorneys, Hayden’s record includes a role as a privacy advocate. In 2003, while president of the librarians’ association, she opposed U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over a section of the “Patriot Act” that would have allowed the FBI to spy on library patron’s records. That dispute is still quoted in privacy law casebooks today.
The Library of Congress says it is not only “the largest library in the world, with millions of items including books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.” It also is “the world’s largest law library, with a collection of more than three million volumes spanning the ages and covering virtually every jurisdiction in the world. Besides the Copyright Office, the Library also has great sway by serving Congress with a research service, providing “confidential, objective and authoritative research and analysis to help inform the legislative debate.”
She has also worked to streamline online and e-book access at Baltimore’s public libraries and her familiarity in the area could mean a shift in the Copyright Office’s policies. The Copyright Office and its opinions long have held sway in intellectual property disputes; its policies become industry standards. A new Librarian could bring changes in how, and what is copyrighted and what can be rights protected. Interest groups, including those representing the recording industry, book publishers, and a group of creatives concerned with copyright, have expressed guarded support for Hayden’s nomination.