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GAO Releases Report on Copyright Office IT Infrastructure

us-copyright-office-sealOn March 31, 2015, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report evaluating the US Copyright Office information technology environment and plans for the future. The Copyright Office is a department of the Library of Congress. According to the report, which was requested by the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch:

[The Copyright Office] must be able to receive and examine copyright registration applications, collect and maintain deposited copies of copyrighted works, and maintain records of the transfer of copyright ownership. To meet these mission requirements, the office relies on several IT systems, as well as the infrastructure managed by the Library of Congress’s central IT office. However, GAO and others have identified challenges with this environment. For example, comments solicited by the Copyright Office from external users have described limitations in the performance and usability of the office’s electronic copyright registration system, and the Copyright Office has expressed concerns about the integrity of the files stored in the Library’s servers…The Copyright Office requested over $7 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to address four key challenges: (1) reengineer recordation—one of the office’s key business processes—to include developing an online filing capability; (2) develop a secure digital repository for its electronic materials (e.g., books and music); (3) develop a software application development environment; and (4) establish a data management team, to include developing data standards.

In its review, GAO found that:

The office has not adequately justified these proposed investments [the request for $7 million]. Specifically, it has not identified the business needs they are intended to meet, expected costs, or how they align with the agency’s strategic plan, as called for by Library IT investment management policy. The office also did not present the investments to the Library’s IT investment review board…However, without identifying key costs and benefits of proposed initiatives and presenting this information to the Library-wide investment review board, decision makers at the Library and the Copyright Office do not have the assurance that the selected investments support the organization’s goals and do not duplicate existing activities. In addition, the office does not have an IT strategic plan, and officials described difficulties in developing such a plan given that the Library has not yet developed one. As noted in a recent GAO review of the Library’s IT management, the Library has recently committed to developing an updated IT strategic plan, and it will be important for the Copyright Office’s own strategic planning to be aligned with this effort.

GAO recommends that the Copyright Office “(1) develop key information to support proposed initiatives for improving its IT environment and submit them to the Library’s IT investment review board for review, and (2) develop an IT strategic plan that is aligned with the Library’s strategic planning efforts. The office neither agreed nor disagreed. GAO continues to believe its recommendations are warranted.”

See also “GAO Releases Report on Library of Congress IT Infrastructure.”