Maria Pallante fired as Register of Copyrights in Policy Power Grab

By Gene Quinn
October 24, 2016

Maria Pallante, former Register of Copyrights, speaking at AIPLA annual meeting 2015.

Maria Pallante, former Register of Copyrights, speaking at AIPLA annual meeting October 2015.

In a fast moving story that developed late last week, Maria Pallante is now the former Register of Copyrights. According to The Register, critics believe this was an attempt by certain well placed tech giants in Silicon Valley to assert influence over U.S. government policy during the waning days of the Obama Administration. See Murder in the Library of Congress.

Initially, after a closed door meeting with Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, Pallante was reassigned within the department. The reassignment was certainly not a promotion, and it was not voluntary. Billboard reports that on Friday morning Pallante was locked out of her computer.

Pallante was apparently to assume the role of Senior Advisor for Digital Strategy, while Karyn Temple Claggett will become Acting Register of Copyrights. However, a search of the Copyright Office website finds Pallante’s page referring to her role with the Office in the past tense and with no mention of any advisory role relating to digital strategy.

Earlier today House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following joint statement after the announcement that Maria Pallante, the former Register of Copyrights, will be leaving the U.S. Copyright Office:

We are saddened to learn that Maria Pallante, who served with distinction as only the 12th Register of Copyrights and the Director of the Copyright Office for the last five years, will be leaving the Copyright Office.  This will be a tremendous loss for the Copyright Office and for America’s creators, innovators, and users of copyrighted works.

We have had the pleasure of working closely with Maria over the last few years as the House Judiciary Committee conducted a comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law to determine whether the law is still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation.  Maria has played an instrumental role in the Committee’s efforts.   We have welcomed her thoughtful testimony on copyright law and policy a number of times and closely studied the reports produced by her office.

As Maria transitions from the Copyright Office, it is the perfect opportunity to examine the selection process for the new Register.  America’s creativity is the envy of the world and the Copyright Office is at the center of it.  We must ensure that any new Register is fully qualified to lead this important office as it continues to directly advise Congress on copyright policy and law.  The new Register of Copyrights should be dedicated to protecting creative rights and modernizing the Copyright Office.

Business leaders and executives were reportedly caught by surprise at the sudden firing of Pallante. While the Register of Copyrights does have some ability to influence policy it is hardly a high-profile policy-making position. If The Register is correct and this is Silicon Valley attempting to flex its muscle during while it still can during the final friendly days of the Obama Administration this could just be the first peculiar and sudden departure we see over the next several weeks.

It would appear that unless the polls are all wrong Secretary Hillary Clinton will prevail on November 8th. Those in the know do not expect her to have the same revolving door at the White House enjoyed by Silicon Valley tech giants and their lobbyists. So if this political parlor game is going to reach all the way down to a position like the Registrar of Copyrights the final days of the Obama Administration may be quite interesting to observe.

UPDATED: A correction was made at 7:38pm. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to “the Guardian” when the source was The Register. 

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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Discuss this

There are currently 3 Comments comments.

  1. EG October 25, 2016 7:44 am

    Hey Gene:

    I just read “Murder in the Library of Congress.” That article is pretty chilling in describing the power grab being made by The Big G.

  2. John Smith October 25, 2016 12:06 pm

    I am appalled that such a Banana Republic type power grab could be so blatantly, successfully executed in the United States, apparently orchestrated be Google, without appropriate intervention by Congress. Perhaps, the system is “rigged” against us mere mortals as opposed to Google and Silicon Valley in addition to Wall Street.

  3. Gene Quinn December 4, 2016 1:06 pm

    Due to an extraordinary number of spam comments on this article, and since the last substantive comments were made 6 weeks ago, I will be closing comments on this article.

    -Gene