Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Father Drinan and Copyright

News account of Father Robert Drinan, who died on Sunday, mention his service in Congress, and understandably so. Elected in 1970, he served on the House IP subcommittee and was involved in efforts to find an accommodation over fair use and photocopying issues between educators on one hand and author/publishers on the other hand. In that effort at reconciliation, despite his life-long unwavering dedication to education, he did not slight the interests of authors and publishers. When an educator once remarked at a hearing that widespread educational use was by definition in the public interest, Father Drinan remarked, "[i]t is not good for the owner of the copyright." (See Copyright Law Revision: Hearings on H.R. 2223 Before the Subcomm. on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the House Judiciary Comm., 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 305 (1975)).

He also was the "father" (pun intended) of what became VARA. The history of VARA begins on January 15, 1979, with the introduction, by Father Drinan of H.R. 288, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. See also 125 Cong. Rec. H164 (daily ed. Jan. 15, 1979) (floor remarks introducing the bill). In the first session of the 97th Congress, Representative Barney Frank introduced H.R. 2908, identical to H.R. 288. See 127 Cong. Rec. H217 (daily ed. Mar. 30, 1981) (Mr. Frank’s floor remarks). Mr. Frank reintroduced the proposal as H.R. 1521 in the first session of the 98th Congress, again with no action. See 129 Cong. Rec. H2414 (daily ed. Feb. 17,1983). In the second session of the 99th Congress, Mr. Markey took over for Mr. Frank, thereby continuing the Massachusetts connection that started with Father Drinan. (On the Senate side, the Massachusetts connection was with Ted Kennedy, who saw it through to the end and was a stalwart supporter of artists).

I met Father Drinan once at Georgetown Law School, when I was an adjunct there, my full-time job then being a Hill staffer. Georgetown had a reception for adjuncts in an effort to get them into closer contact with the full-time faculty, something that rarely occurs. I got to talk to him a bit about his role in the 1976. He was warm, gentle, and charismatic; a truly great man. May his memory be a blessing forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite knowing most of the details of the Act, I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know Father Drinan introduced VARA; thank you for this posting and for the link to the news article -- he sounds like a very bright man.