George D. Cary, 1971–1973


George D. Cary began his service in the Copyright Office as an attorney in April 1947. He was promoted to assistant chief of the Examining Division, principal legal advisor, and general counsel. He served as deputy register for ten years from 1961 until he was appointed Register of Copyrights effective September 1, 1971, succeeding Abraham L. Kaminstein.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 7, 1911, Cary was educated in the public schools of St. Louis and Birmingham, Alabama. He received a bachelor of science degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1932. In 1938, he received a law degree from the George Washington University and, in 1942, a master of laws degree from Georgetown University. He was a member of the Alabama and the District of Columbia bars, the Federal Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.

As a young man, Cary was an amateur musician. Also, in earlier years, he was an enthusiastic flyer and held a civilian pilot's license. During World War II, Cary served as a naval intelligence officer for four years and later retired from the naval reserve with the rank of captain.

Before and during his tenure as Register, Cary's activities spanned several fields, including legal, legislative, administrative, and international affairs. Cary was a principal author of the U.S. government's amicus curiae brief in the case of Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201 (1954), in which the Supreme Court upheld the copyrightability of sculptures used as lamp bases, for which the Copyright Office had made registrations. He figured prominently in the Copyright Office's efforts that led to the general revision of the copyright law in 1976.

Cary authored many articles on copyright law appearing in journals in the United States and abroad. He wrote the study entitled "Joint Ownership of Copyrights" and coauthored "Notice of Copyright," part of the copyright law revision studies published by the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright when considering a general revision of the copyright law in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cary lectured extensively and was professorial lecturer in copyright law at the National Law Center of the George Washington University. He also lectured at the Practising Law Institute.

Cary retired on March 9, 1973, and later served as a commissioner on the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU), which was created by Congress to study and resolve issues related to the impact of the computer on copyrighted works and to provide recommendations on possible changes to the copyright law. Cary also served as a trustee of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. He died in May 1987.