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May 19, 2009

Of Course [4:47 pm]

Move to Electronic System Means Long Waits at U.S. Copyright Office (pdf)

A serious logjam in the U.S. Copyright Office has created a growing mountain of paper applications, more than the staff can process. Like the marching buckets of water in “The Sorcerers Apprentice,” the envelopes just keep coming, threatening to flood the operation.

The problem has tripled the processing time for a copyright from six to 18 months, and delays are expected to get worse in coming months. The librarys inspector general has warned that the backlog threatens the integrity of the U.S. copyright system.

The irony is that the slowdown stems from a new $52 million electronic process that is supposed to speed the way writers and others register their literary, musical or visual work.

The delays do not appear to be hampering the business of the major publishing houses or those willing to spend $685 for a “special handling fee” that expedites registration. But the slowdown is frustrating hundreds of thousands of little-known people with big dreams. They paid $45 for the right to claim legal ownership of poems, fabric designs, plays, jingles, even computer manuals.

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