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Call for Nominations: the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award in Support of Users’ Rights

Alan Inouye presents the award to Peter Suber
Alan Inouye presents the award to Peter Suber

In recognition of the life, accomplishments and contributions of L. Ray Patterson, the American Library Association calls for nominations for the award established in his name. The award honors particular individuals or groups who “embody the spirit of the U.S. Copyright law as voiced by the framers of our constitution: ‘to advance the knowledge of science and useful arts’ (U.S. Constitution, art 1, sec 8).”

Appropriate nominees for the Patterson Award are persons or groups who have made significant and consistent contributions in the areas of academia, law, politics, public policy, libraries or library education to the pursuit of copyright principles as outlined below.

The fundamental tenets established by Congress when crafting U.S. Copyright law:

  • The creation of new knowledge and the arts is encouraged;
  • The creation and dissemination of knowledge is the purpose of copyright;
  • Congress is granted the power to encourage creation of new works, but only via a very specific method, by granting authors and inventors exclusive rights;
  • The exclusive rights granted should be for a limited time;
  • Authors and inventors can benefit financially from copyright but this is a side effect of encouraging the dissemination of knowledge, the direct intent of copyright; and
  • The rights of authors and inventors are granted by Congress and are not intrinsic or natural.

Past awardees include Peter Jaszi, Law Professor at the American University Washington College; Prudence Adler, Association of Research Libraries; Kenny Crews, Columbia University; Peggy Hoon, University of North Carolina; Jack Bernard, University of Michigan; Fred von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Peter Suber, Harvard University Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication.

In 2002, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) established the award honoring Patterson, a foremost legal thinker, writer and champion of users’ rights. He was a pioneer who exposed the restrictive nature of new interpretations and unnecessary expansions of contemporary copyright law. For librarians, Patterson was a key legal figure who articulated how corporate interests have sidetracked the true purpose of copyright — to advance learning and the dissemination of knowledge.  Through numerous books, articles, and briefs, Patterson highlighted and justified the importance of the public domain and fair use.

Please send letters of nomination outlining a candidate’s qualifications for this award to

Carrie Russell, Director, Program on Public Access to Information
ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW
First Floor
Washington, DC 20009

or to  Please include illustrate examples of how your nominee has contributed to the pursuit of the fundamental tenets of copyright law. Nominees who have worked or collaborated with libraries will be given special consideration. Nominations will be accepted through February 15, 2012. More information is available on the ALA website.

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Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Washington Office. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books, and other public policy issues. She has an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in media arts from the University of Arizona.

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