Copyright Rulemaking: Past As Prologue

17 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019

Date Written: March 29, 2019


In deciding what rule-making authority the Copyright Office should have, it may be helpful to take a close and careful look at how the Office has historically exercised its rule-making powers. This article undertakes this task and makes a number of observations:

(1) the Office’s rule-making activity increased dramatically after passage of the 1976 Act;

(2) the rules issued fall into a number of identifiable categories;

(3) by far the largest category consists of rules administering statutory licenses set forth in the Act; and

(4) the smallest category consists of precisely the kinds of substantive rules that some commentators propose the Copyright Office issue in the future.

While Congress may, of course, change the balance of copyright regulation in the future, this Article argues that any future delegations of substantive rule-making authority must take into account the fact that the Office’s regulatory efforts to date have largely involved a very particular and unique kind of rule-making, one that focuses on administering legislative compromises between large industries rather than on furthering specific copyright policies. Care must be taken to ensure that this unusual regulatory perspective does not unduly influence or affect future substantive rule-making.

Suggested Citation

Liu, Joseph P., Copyright Rulemaking: Past As Prologue (March 29, 2019). Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Vol. 33, 2019, Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 502, Available at SSRN:

Joseph P. Liu (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
617-552-6377 (Phone)

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