Thursday, October 3, 2013

How the Government Shut Down Affects Me

Like most Americans, I tend to be incredibly oblivious to things that do not affect me directly.  I can complain about Congress but if I don’t personally suffer  because of the current governmental shutdown I might not even notice it.  But I began to wonder, how does the government shut down actually affect me and my clients?  Turns out, a great deal.

  I do a lot of copyright work – registering copyrights, and enforcing my clients’ copyrights.  There is currently a sign on the copyright office web site that reads “The U.S. Copyright Office is closed and is not available due to the federal government shutdown … copyright registrations will not be processed until the Copyright Office reopens.”

This has the potential to become a huge problem. If copyright owners can’t register their copyrights, they can’t get into court to protect their rights.

 I also do a lot of trademark work.  I went to the site and discovered that due to some pre‑planning the trademark office is using “prior year reserve fee collections” to remain open for “approximately four weeks”.  Then the trademark office would shut down except for a “very small staff” that would continue to accept new applications.  However,  presumably the new applications would not be processed. 

  Finally I wondered what the effect of the shutdown would be on the Federal Court System.  I learned that because the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial, the Federal courts must remain open as an essential government service.  However, most commentators think that civil litigation would be suspended and that so‑called non‑essential employees (the people in the clerk’s office—who are pretty essential in my book ) will be furloughed without pay and the system will grind to a halt. 

 If the shutdown continues,  the ripple effects are going to be significant.  I was already disgusted after hearing about Head Start daycare programs being shut down as well as the exacerbation of the problems in the Veteran’s Administration but I did not think that my practice or my ability to serve my clients would be affected.  Apparently I was wrong.  

 This needs to end.