Monday, May 01, 2006

Waldo Moore

I want to pay homage to a friend who died slightly over two years ago, Waldo Moore. Born in Mississippi during the Depression, he moved eventually to Washington D.C., a town President Kennedy once described as a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. He graduated from the George Washington Law School in 1949. Here is a link to an obituary notice from GW that provides a few details and a picture. In 1951 he joined the Copyright Office, where he stayed for 35 years, a not unusual period of time. I don't know what his initial positions were, but he eventually served as Chief of the Reference Division, Assistant Register of Copyrights for Registration, retiring as an Associate Register in 1986. In 1961 he became the Assistant Chief of the Examining Division, taking Barbara Ringer's position when she moved up to Chief. I came to the Office shortly after Waldo retired, but knew him before then and visited with him on those occasions when he came to the Office. I deeply regret not having joined the Office earlier in order to have learned more from him.

And there was an amazing amount one could learn from Waldo. The 35 years he served in the Office were momentous ones, under such legendary Registers as Abraham Kaminstein and Barbara Ringer. Those who are not familiar with this era or who have come to copyright in the post-DMCA world, will find it difficult to fully appreciate the greatness of these figures. Their knowledge, institutional memory, commitment to copyright as a balancing of proprietary rights and the public interest, love of the arts, and devoted public service were taken for granted, although they shouldn't have been. Waldo was one of the Office's repository of history; not only did he live through great historical periods, he was steeped in the eras that came before him. One felt, through him, even a remote connection to the first Register, Thorvald Solberg who served 33 years, from 1897 to 1930. Waldo was extremely generous with his time and knowledge, and unfailing courteous. He never lost his Southern gentlemanly ways (or dress). I adored him.

Bejamin Kaplan, in living nine decades has seen alot too, but while his principal publication on copyright is still cited, the story behind the title does not seem to be remarked on often, although Lloyd Weinrib did, thankfully, in a comment on the book's recent republication: "In 1966, when Benjamin Kaplan delivered the Carpentier lectures at Columbia University under the title 'An Unhurried View of Copyright,' there was time not to be in a hurry." We don't seem to have that luxury today, to take the time to teach or to learn ourselves in a quiet way, the way that people like Waldo Moore personified. May his memory serve as a blessing and as an inspiration for us to take that time, for ourselves and for others.


Anonymous said...

I am very happy to say that Waldo Moore taught me copyright law at George Washington University. My class was his last class taught in the last year of the 1909 Act as the 1976 Copyright Act became effective in 1978. So Prof. Moore taught us both versions and that was a foundation serving me so well throughout my career that it brings joy. I am also happy to remember him because Prof. Moore was the most courteous and the most caring law professor to students that I ever encountered. He is a model to me when I teach but I can never approach his style. And I am amused every time I think about him because of this: I asked Prof Moore to sponsor me in an independent study to produce a paper I had hoped would be published. When I presented him with my topic, the unconstitutionality of the life-plus-fifty term, he cracked a smile, ran his hand through his hair and gave a pre-Reaganesque tilt to his head while commenting that he’d be very interested to read the results. He suggested the cards were stacked against me - - really, really stacked against me - - then when he read the paper he gave it an A. I often wonder what he thought of Eldred and I am now sorry I didn’t seek out his opinion. I know he remained totally unconvinced by anything I wrote.

Robert Lind, mentioned in the obit you linked to in your post, is a good friend here in Los Angeles and has a far better long-term memory than mine as well as a extraordinary skill at absorbing information and I am certain he performed the equivalent of a data dump off of Waldo Moore and got even better grades from him than I did! If anyone wants to know more about Waldo, I am sure Robert would be delighted to hear from you.

It’s marvelous of you, Prof. Patry, to re-invest our memories of this great man.

(That paper never got published. I finished it in my last year of law school and immediately joined the legal department at ASCAP. Its publication would have greatly embarrassed my employer since ASCAP was one of the leading proponents of the life-plus-fifty term. That provision was commonly referred to then as the Irving Berlin Extension, an ASCAP member who had been around so long that many of his signature songs were threatening to plop into the public domain during his lifetime and who made countless trips up to the Hill to play the piano for Congressman before the 1976 Act was passed.)

William Patry said...

Thanks Joshua for posting your experiences. I hope others do too. It is an important mitzvah to remember, and especially those not well known to others.