Saturday, August 21, 2010

21 August 2002: Student Newspaper Notes Establishment of Patterson Copyright Award

On this day in 2002, the independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia, the Red & Black, published news of the new American Library Association Award named for University of Georgia law professor, L. Ray Patterson. Patterson was the Pope Brock Professor of Law at UGA, and a Special Assistant Attorney General of Georgia for Copyright Law. The initial award was presented by law professor Lawrence Lessig to Professor Patterson during the 2002 ALA national convention in Atlanta.

The Patterson Copyright Award in Support of User's Rights is not an annual award, but one given as merited to "an individual or group that pursues and supports the Constitutional purpose of the U. S. Copyright Law, fair use and the public domain." Patterson considered copyright law to be "a law of user's rights," that fair use of copyrighted information is a right rather than "an excused infringement." There have been six winners since the award was established. The 2010 winner is Fred von Lohmann, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Patterson was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1929, and attended Mercer University for his undergraduate degree. He earned a Master's degree in English from Northwestern University, then taught at Middle Georgia College before joining the Army during the Korean War, where he worked as a Russian translator.

After the war, Patterson earned a law degree from Mercer University, and taught law there while earning his S.J.D. (Doctorate of Judicial Science) from Harvard University. He then spent the 1960s teaching law at Vanderbilt University and acting as an assistant U. S. Attorney. In 1968, he published Copyright in Historical Perspective, a text that remains in print today.

In 1973, Patterson become dean of the Emory School of Law in Atlanta, stepping down from that position in 1980. In 1987, he accepted the position of Pope Brock Chair at University of Georgia Law School. Patterson published The Nature of Copyright: A Law of User's Rights with co-author Stanley Lindberg, editor of the Georgia Review, in 1991. Though he wrote or co-authored over 20 books in his career, these two books were among the most admired for their approach to copyright law.

Patterson taught at UGA until his death from lung cancer in November, 2003. He was 74 years old.

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