Government shutdown = Ooligan shutdown?

Mon, 21 Oct 2013 16:00:22 +0000

Although news networks loved to focus on the striking visual images associated with the government shutdown of 2013—the outraged veterans unable to pay their respects at the WWII memorial; the big, orange CLOSED sign blocking the road to the Grand Canyon; the wilting gardens of the White House—the less visible repercussions have been far more widespread than anyone could have anticipated. The snowballing minutiae of the riderless horse means that the publishing industry, and even our little corner of the publishing industry here at Ooligan, has seen the effects.

If you had gone to the Library of Congress on the date of this blog post’s inception, you would see that the building was closed, the knowledge inside inaccessible, the miles and miles of bookcases quiet and still. But perhaps more worrisome was the discreet little note in innocuous teal at the head of their website:

Due to the lapse in government funding, the U.S. Copyright Office is closed, as is the greater Library of Congress. As such, the office is unable to update the information on this website, respond to inquiries, or process transactions. Registration submissions will be accepted for the purpose of securing date of receipt, but will not be processed. Website updates and all normal business activity will resume when the government reopens.

The Library of Congress, in addition to being one of the two largest libraries in the world, houses the United States Copyright Office, which is responsible for the registration and protection of all literary, musical, dramatic, cinematic, graphic architectural, etc. copyright in the U.S. According to its website, the Library receives some 15,000 new works each day, and adds approximately 11,000 of those items to its collection. Most of these are attained through the copyright process, which requires submission of the material in question for review. Throughout the course of the shutdown, the entirety of this process was brought to a standstill, and even though the government is, as of October 18th, resuming activity, the shutdown put this process to a stop for sixteen days. That’s a backlog of some 240,000 creative works, and all the while more works will be piling on top of it as the 3,500 jilted Librarians of Congress try to play catch up.

Though the legal implications of this are not terribly pressing given that, as the website notice states above, the office was still recording dates of receipt throughout the shutdown, the delay could potentially have financial consequences for Ooligan and small publishing houses like us. Two Ooligan projects slated for release early next year, The Wax Bullet War and We Belong in History: Writing with William Stafford, are currently in the process of attaining copyright registration, and the delay could affect the timely receipt of the Cataloguing in Publication record, or the “CIP data.”  This data must be included with the published book to facilitate easy processing of the book for libraries and book dealers nationwide. Though a shutdown resolution looming on the horizon has mostly alleviated our concern that we may not receive the data at all in time for the books’ release dates and the distribution of the books will likely not be jeopardized, the delay could yet be substantial enough to interfere with the publishing schedule. There could come a point where the entire book is waiting on that little bit of crucial CIP data, and replacing a page in the manuscript after a certain point in the publication process starts costing our little publishing house some big bucks.

It’s not sixteen days without pay. It’s not a delay in medical funding for cancer research. It’s not even a cancelled wedding party at a national park. But I’ve found myself almost more intrigued with the tiny, endlessly cascading consequences of pointless congressional quibbling. As of now, the government is back in session, but the proposed resolution is being hailed as a stopgap, and the U.S. is facing another potential shutdown in only three short months. Hopefully, the issues presented by this shutdown won’t be resolved just to begin anew this coming January—for the sake of our budget and our sanity.

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