Tribute to the Copyright Expert Everyone Knew as Kepie


I received terrible news yesterday. My copyright mentor, Mike Keplinger, passed away on Wednesday from a brain hemorrhage. When a long-time colleague sent me an email with the news, I just looked at the subject line and reflexively blurted out loud “oh f*ck.” What I should have said out of respect for the man that everyone knew as Kepie was “rat farts” or something much more PG, because that’s what he would have said.

Eventually I brought myself to read the email itself and just sat there with my mind fully not comprehending what had happened or its impact. Admittedly, I had not spoken with Kepie in many years, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t with me every day in everything I do. I have been fortunate enough to have had so many wonderful copyright mentors over the years, but Kepie was the first. And as they say you never forget your first. He set me on the path to be the copyright attorney I am today. I cannot express how appreciative I am to this day of his time and patience with me.

Kepie left an indelible mark on international and domestic copyright law in his many years working as a copyright expert at the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Kepie was a devoted public servant who cared about copyright law and the copyright community. Today, the fact that he was so concerned about all-things copyright and was a government official, anti-copyright groups like EFF and PK would have labeled him as being “bought by industry” because that’s what these groups do if you take a position on copyright that differs from their own. But I digress.

Kepie didn’t just lay the foundation for my copyright background, he also taught me the ins and outs of being a government lawyer and policymaker. I recall like it was yesterday how he’d walk in the office all dapper in his seersucker suit, how I’d spend endless hours in his office sitting on one side of his desk while he sat on the other side looking over a stack of papers and answering my questions about copyright – like why sound recording companies don’t have a public performance right (a question that 25 years later I am still dealing with in my new job), and how I’d sit in the back of his car when he would drive me and him from the PTO (then in Crystal City) to the Copyright Office weaving in and out of traffic while I prayed for my life.

Kepie was a fundamentally good person, good to the core in every aspect of his life. Patient, kind, caring, and devoted to doing the right thing. Kepie will be missed not only by me, but by countless others – those who worked on copyright issues with him over the years and numerous others he came in contact with.

<em>by Keith Kupferschmid</em>
<p style=”text-align: right;”><span style=”font-size: 8pt;”><em>Image Courtesy of WIPO</em></span></p>
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