Anyone who has ever checked out—or checked in—a library book or an ebook has our nation’s balanced copyright policies to thank. While the US code includes the first sale doctrine and allows exceptions to copyrighted works on behalf of the public interest, that balance is intact only so long as it is defended. The first line of defense is often a library.
But much of that defense would not be possible if not for a person most librarians don’t even know: Jonathan Band, who for nearly 20 years has represented libraries on behalf of the American Library Association (ALA) and other library associations. Band is this year’s recipient of the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award.
Band wrote the amicus brief cited in the landmark case Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the first sale doctrine applied to books printed abroad, enabling libraries to buy and lend books manufactured overseas. He writes amicus briefs on many other issues, including fair use, e-reserves, mass digitization, and third-party liability protections for librarians. He also drafts comments to the US Copyright Office on the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and has traveled to Marrakesh to argue for the information rights of people with print disabilities.
ALA President Jim Neal, who presented the award to Band at a reception on Capitol Hill on October 2, said:
“Jonathan Band has guided the library community over two decades through the challenges of the copyright legal and legislative battles. His deep understanding of our community and the needs of our users, in combination with his remarkable knowledge and supportive style, has raised our understanding of copyright and our commitment to balanced interpretations and applications of the law. The 2017 L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award appropriately celebrates Jonathan’s leadership, counsel, and dedication.”
The L. Ray Patterson Award is named for a law professor and copyright historian at the University of Georgia who was one of first people to assert that copyright existed “for the benefit of the public.” He urged librarians to fight for fair use and the public domain, principles that embody the fundamental tenets of librarianship: equitable access to information, preservation of the cultural record, intellectual freedom, and the right to read and learn.
Alongside librarians at Band’s reception were many Washington, D.C., attorneys, lobbyists, and public interest group leaders who also recognized Band’s contributions. Matthew Schruers, vice president for law and policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association and a former protegee of Band’s, noted the complexity of laws related to intellectual property and called Band “a beacon of clarity in an opaque landscape.”
Today, copyright law is growing increasingly more complex, particularly concerning digital works and licensing agreements. Librarians and library users everywhere rely on expertise from Jonathan Band and others who work behind the scenes to protect the balance of US copyright policy and, with it, our access to information.