October 1, 2013
Government Shutdown Affects IP Profs, Attys too … Copyright.gov down! by Tonya M. Evans is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
As I prepared for my Copyright & Trademark class this morning, I needed to pull the text of one of the sections of the Copyright Act. So I surfed on over to Copyright.gov to access the full text of the Act when I bumped into an odd-looking notice page.
Without really looking at the text, I figured my browser had auto-completed the last URL I’d visited at the site so I typed in copyright.gov myself and hit send. The odd-looking notice page appeared again and there it was … an official notice that due to the government shutdown the Copyright Office is closed:
So it seems the government shutdown is INDEED having intended and unintended consequences as thousands of federal employees are furloughed, or receiving government IOUs because the government cannot pay. The strategy to defund the federal government in order to participate in the kabuki theater of purporting to defund the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act or ACA) a/k/a Obamacare seems not only inane (and insane) but just plain inhumane.
Dozens of offices are closed, including the Copyright Office. So the impact is real. Mail will be delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue to flow (although there will likely be delays). But WIC food benefits, federal courts, NIH, food safety, Head Start, federal loan processing, veterans services and work safety (to name just a few areas) are all immediately and negatively impacted (either by delays or closures). Even our military and military families are taking a hit. And because taxes and fines will go uncollected, valuable and much-needed revenue will take a hit as well.
Despite the Copyright Office closure, the United States Patent & Trademark Office remains open … at least for several weeks! It’s hardly a silver lining but not all agencies are impacted in the same way.
The USPTO notice reads as follows:
During the general government shutdown that began October 1, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open, using prior year reserve fee collections to operate as usual for approximately four weeks. We continue to assess our fee collections compared to our operating requirements to determine how long we will be able to operate in this capacity during a general government shutdown. We will provide an update as more definitive information becomes available.
Should we exhaust these reserve funds before the general government shutdown comes to an end, USPTO would shut down at that time, although a very small staff would continue to work to accept new applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions. (Should it become necessary for USPTO to shut down, details of the agency’s plan for an orderly shutdown are available on page 78 of the United States Department of Commerce’s shutdown plan, available here.)
It was avoidable. And now the entire nation is feeling the effects, almost too numerous and wide-reaching to count and measure. This comes at a critical time in our country’s struggling fiscal health and need for financial, political and military stability and strength.
CBS estimates of the costs of the shutdown “… could cost the federal government well over $2 billion dollars if it resembles the last shutdowns in 1995-1996, though the economy would be harmed in additional ways that are nearly impossible to measure.“
So what is an inconvenience and teachable moment for me in my classroom today, is having immediate and serious consequences throughout the country.