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 Sorcerer's 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 library's inspector general has warned that the backlog threatens the integrity of the U.S. copyright system.
According to the Post, much of the problem stems from a troublesome transition from paper to electronic registrations:
About 45 percent of applications are still in paper form. The staff is spending so much time handling the paper claims, it doesn't have enough time to process electronic applications, which has created delays for online claims now, too. It now takes six months to process electronic claims when it should take one month.
Of the 10,000 applications that pour into the Copyright Office each week, the staff can process about 7,000, adding 3,000 untouched applications to a growing pile that currently totals about 523,000. Workers are now handling paper applications received in late 2007.
And though electronic registration is obviously the future, it isn't exactly going smoothly:
Kudos to the Post for taking a look into this oft-ignored but important corner of the bureaucracy.
"What the hell is the matter with that [expletive] software of yours?" one author wrote in a March 22 e-mail to the copyright agency. "I've spent more than three hours and a ton of grief trying to register my literary work and upload it. That [expletive] told me at least four times that an error had occurred and then it stopped dead. Why? Who sold you that [expletive] and why did you buy it?"
The author was trying to copyright a children's book.