By TRELLIS WRIGHT
In 1897, the same year the Jefferson Building opened, the Copyright Office was established as a separate office within the Library of Congress and the position of Register of Copyrights was created.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, on Dec. 10, Library staff joined representatives from copyright trade associations, including former U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder, now president of the Association of American Publishers, and staffs of congressional offices and executive branch agencies for a Great Hall reception.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anthony Hecht read poetry, including "The Life of Crime," which appears in his most recent publication, Flight Among the Tombs. Mr. Hecht, the Library's 26th Consultant in Poetry, is the 1997 winner of the Academy of American Poets Tanning Prize. Staff Sgt. Patrick Sobolik sang "The Star Spangled Banner" as the flag was presented by a Joint Armed Forces Color Guard from the Military District of Washington.
The Library and "The Star Spangled Banner" are linked historically to the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the song in September 1814 during the Battle of Baltimore. The previous month, British soldiers set fire to the U.S. Capitol, destroying the Library's entire collection. Congress began rebuilding its Library with the purchase of the Thomas Jefferson's 6,500-volume private library.
But the phenomenal growth of the collections was due to Librarian Ainsworth Rand Spofford's vision of a national library and his success in urging Congress to pass legislation in 1865 to make deposit a requirement for copyright registration and in 1870 to move the entire copyright function to the Library.
Unable to attend the program because he was chairing a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) sent a statement in which he said: "In 1870, legislation was passed to transfer the entire 'copyright business' from the federal courts to the Library of Congress. For the first time, our nation had a central point for both copyright registration and for the holding of record copies of registered works. One hundred years ago, the Copyright Office was created as a distinct unit of the Library to facilitate registration of works."
Rep. Coble also said that the office has evolved into a vital congressional agency that grants invaluable domestic and international policy advice and takes part in treaty negotiations, in cooperation with the administration.
Speaking on the significance of the Copyright Office to the Library, Dr. Billington said, "There is a critical synergy that exists between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office. Copyright has played a catalytic role in making the Library the greatest repository of knowledge in the world. Today both the Library and the Copyright Office are at the center of our digital networked information society, and our partnership is as important today as it was 100 years ago."
Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters noted that with the creation of a copyright department, copyright policy leadership effectively shifted to the head of the Copyright Office. She said the role of the office has been one of leadership in the establishment of U.S. copyright policy and service to the nation. "The record of the office is one of solid achievement," she said.
During her presentation, Ms. Peters noted that the goals established in 1897 are essentially the goals of today. "The creativity, imagination, flexibility, patience and dedication of the staff deserve the highest praise," she said.
This program was part of a week-long series of events to commemorate the centenary. Activities included a discussion by John Y. Cole, director of the Library's Center for the Book, about Spofford's advocacy of a national library; recollections by Arthur Levine, attorney with Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett and Dunner of Washington, and Susie Barfield, chief of Copyright's Receiving and Processing Division, about working in the Copyright Office; the screening of three short films from the Library's National Film Registry, with an introduction by David Francis, chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS); and two "curator's showcases."
During the showcases, Library curators discussed important collections that were obtained through copyright deposit. The curators who participated were Alice Birney and Marvin Kranz (Manuscript Division), Cooper Graham and Sam Brylawski (MBRS), James Flatness (Geography and Map Division), and Wayne Shirley (Music Division).
The Copyright Office also sponsored "U.S. Copyright Office Speaks: Intellectual Property Protection in the New Era," a seminar held on Dec. 11 and 12.
Ms. Wright is in the Copyright Office.