News of Marybeth Peters’ recent retirement as United States Register of Copyrights and questions about her acting replacement, Maria Pallante, and others considered for the job, has set me to thinking about the time I entered the world of copyright. I saw Marybeth Peters speak for the first time in December of 1997 at a conference entitled Copyright, New Technology, and New Media: the US Copyright Office Speaks on Intellectual Property Protection in the New Era.
A lot has happened in the Internet World since then. I worked at the time as an Intellectual Property Manager for the NASA-funded program Classroom of the Future overseeing processes and procedures related to copyright. I got my training on copyright and the “new technologies” on the fly. The possibilities for education using these technologies seemed to all of us to be infinite. But for me, many questions of the moment regarding what would be the interplay between copyright and those possibilities seemed unanswerable. I was a neophyte in the area of copyright protection and copyright clearance, and so much in the copyright arena was in a state of flux.
Classroom of the Future was a nationally recognized program, modeling the use of the new technologies for teachers. It was such an adventure for all of us—the curriculum creators, the programmers, and the creative writers. However, we were struggling with tough questions, some related to intellectual property ownership and involving such activities as framing, mirroring, caching, and linking. We were creating CD ROMs like our Astronomy Village: Investigating the Universe http://www.cet.edu/?cat=online_learning&page=26www. that transported students to a “virtual observatory community-an ‘astronomy village’ where they [could] take part in a variety of scientific investigations” and BioBlast http://www.cet.edu/?cat=online_learning&page=54, one of the first interactive tools for teaching biology. Some content needed clearance and all of it needed protection. Those were roller coaster times for many of us dealing with copyright clearance and protection.
Marybeth Peters has done a stellar job in seeing us through the rough spots during these times— of clarifying, when she could, how copyright ownership played out in the new world of the Internet, of listening to concerns and grievances about how copyright law wasn’t working, and of contributing to the efforts to find answers to the new questions presented. I remember my first conference with Ms. Peters in 1997, the one on copyright protection in the “New Era” and how impressed I was with how personable, accessible and knowledgeable she was. I wish her the best in her new adventure and am willing to bet her “retirement” won’t be an idle one. I think she will continue learning at a fast pace, listening, and contributing to the understanding and progress made in the copyright arena as we move through the New Age of Social Media (a reference in one copyright conference title I just ran across).
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