Tuesday 5 May 2009

Barbara A. Ringer

The Los Angeles Times carries a rather lovely obituary of Barbara Ringer, a former Register of Copyrights in the US and the woman who did much of the behind-the-scenes work to modernise the archaic US Copyright Act of 1909. Credited as the initiator of "fair use" doctrine, she also pushed for authors to enjoy a life plus 50 years term in place of the complicated 28 + 28 year formula that preceded it.

I did not meet Barbara Ringer myself, but she was a formative influence on the thinking of my PhD superviser Harry Bloom in the early days of the ill-fated Unit for Legal Research in Computers and Communications at the University of Kent, Canterbury.  Indeed, in the days before copyright law students had quick and easy access to articles on the subject, a succession of copies of Ringer's papers and memorandums on a number of live issues found their way on to the reading lists of students at that establishment.

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