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Government

The Woman Who Established Fair Use 226

The Narrative Fallacy writes "The Washington Post has an interesting profile on Barbara A. Ringer, who joined the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress in 1949 and spent 21 years drafting the legislation and lobbying Congress before the Copyright Act of 1976 was finally passed. Ringer wrote most of the bill herself. 'Barbara had personal and political skills that could meld together the contentious factions that threatened to tear apart every compromise in the 20 year road to passage of the 1976 Act,' wrote copyright lawyer William Patry. The act codified the fair use defense to copyright infringement. For the first time, scholars and reviewers could quote briefly from copyrighted works without having to pay fees. With the 1976 act that Ringer conceived, an author owned the copyright for his or her lifetime plus 50 years. Previously under the old 1909 law, an author owned the copyright for 28 years from the date of publication and unless the copyright was renewed, the work entered the public domain, and the author lost any right to royalties. Ringer received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, the highest honor for a federal worker. Ringer remained active in copyright law for years, attending international conferences and filing briefs with the Supreme Court before her death earlier this year at age 83. 'Her contributions were monumental,' said Marybeth Peters, the Library of Congress's current register of copyrights. 'She blazed trails. She was a heroine.'"

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