By RUTH SIEVERS
A service unit of the Library of Congress since 1870, the Copyright Office serves the Library in a unique way. While it does not specifically collect material for the Library, it receives deposits of works sent in as a part of the U.S. copyright registration system. In addition, U.S. law contains a mandatory deposit provision that requires those who publish copyrightable works in the United States to deposit copies with the Copyright Office for use by the Library. In 2000, the office transferred material valued at almost $32 million to the Library for its permanent collections.
Unpublished poetry, music and lyrics constituted the bulk of the material the Copyright Office found when it asked its catalogers to look for material relating to September 11 during a single week in August, almost a year after the terrorist attacks.
To Jeff Cole, assistant chief in the Examining Division, that's not unusual. "We always see a lot of unpublished songs and poems as a reaction to every big event in the news," he said. He remembers that the Gulf War and the American hostage crisis in Iran generated similar responses.
Citizens from around the country responded to the tragedy with creative efforts that stressed brotherhood, unity, faith in God, retribution and an outpouring of sympathy for the victims. Images of American flags were often included as a motif in their submissions.
These are typical titles: "For the Fallen," "Ode to New York City and Its Bravest," "Drops of Angry Tears," "I'm Still Crying," "We Are One" and "Nueva York Ya No Es El Mismo," by a citizen of El Salvador living in California.
Many of those who submitted their work for copyright protection indicated that they had written their pieces either on September 11 or very soon thereafter.
Joanna Roussis, acting chief of the office's Cataloging Division, said that "these few items were gleaned from only one week's work. I would estimate there are thousands already registered, and they are still coming in. This probably will remain in the American consciousness for all time."
The fact that the Copyright Office is still cataloging, and actually just opening mail, from that time, is a result of the anthrax danger on Capitol Hill immediately following the events on September 11. Mail to the Library was routed off-site for special screening and processing; only in late April 2002 did the office begin receiving any significant amounts of U.S. postal mail.
Among the published material found in the sample week were a soft cover book on Al Qaeda, by an FBI consultant; professional photographer Jay Maisel's "A Tribute," a hardback book of beautiful photographs of the Twin Towers, all but two taken before their demise; a book on "Finding God in the Face of Evil," and a special edition Newsweek, "America Under Attack."
Published art included designs for tee-shirts, paintings that employed the Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty, and a portrait of a live-rescue dog and his owner who volunteered at Ground Zero.
A number of the copyright remitters indicated that a percentage of the sales from their published art and music would be donated to victims of September 11.
Ruth Sievers is a writer/editor in the Copyright Office.