The trouble is twofold. Workers say the electronic system is slow and prone to crashing. Managers say the challenge has been retraining the staff to use the system. Both sides agree the more significant problem is the fact that much of the public is still using paper applications, which must be painstakingly entered by hand into the new electronic database.
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.
David J. Christopher, associate chief operating officer of the Copyright Office, says the electronic system is getting an upgrade and that the office has been understaffed. Since the problem appears to be the volume of paper applications, the office plans to raise the fees for paper applications from $45 to $65 in August while keeping the fee for electronic filing at $35. But it's not just paper problems. There are clearly issues with the technology as well:
"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.