CORDS allows creators' on-line submissions

The U.S. Copyright Office last month opened a third test site for an on-line copyright registration system that should allow the office to keep up with an increased workload without having to add legions of employees.

The system called the Copyright Office Electronic Registration Recordation and Deposit System (CORDS) is designed to allow creators of books films songs software and other copyrightable material to submit their works and copyright applications on-line. CORDS' third test site at MIT Press in Cambridge Mass. is part of the Copyright Office's plan to build widespread use of the emerging system and will give the office a chance to test the system with book publishers who are more representative of the office's client base. Through the other two test sites located at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and Stanford University in California the office processes copyright registrations primarily for technical papers.

But officials also believe the CORDS project will become increasingly important as the workload at the Copyright Office increases because of the worldwide explosion in electronic documents such as Web pages and software. Copyright officials envision CORDS as a tool to handle documents that are originally created and distributed in electronic form.

About 360 employees at the Copyright Office process about 600 000 applications annually using a hands-on system that takes up to 18 weeks per application. "We're a huge manual system and it's a lot of handling that goes into it " said Mary Levering the office's associate register for national copyright programs and the coordinator of CORDS development.

Although employees will not have to handle sort and examine hard-copy documents using CORDS copyright officials view the new system as lending more of a helping hand with the increased workload rather than as a replacement for the current copyright process.

The Copyright Office has few projections on how much CORDS can improve the process because no one is sure how many electronic documents will be created in coming years and how popular the system will be with the producers of those documents. But Levering said the system can shorten the copyright registration process to as few as 10 days.

Since 1993 about $1 million a year has been sunk into CORDS which was initiated as a joint project of the U.S. Copyright Office and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. The Library of Congress and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency provided the funds. Levering estimated that the system should pay off by 2004 in terms of return on investment and cost avoidance.

Even though CORDS is still in the test mode Copyright Office officials last month briefed a group of New York publishing executives on the emerging system. "They were preaching to the converted a little bit " said Marc Anderson rights and permissions manager at the North American branch of Cambridge University Press who said he and many in his industry are in favor of doing more work electronically to save time.

But Anderson said security could be an obstacle for some who would like to use CORDS. The Copyright Office uses public key/private key encryption software developed by Trusted Information Systems Inc. Information about CORDS can be found on the Web at lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/cords1.html.

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