Maureen Duffy at 80: In Times Like These


Header image: Maureen Duffy at the Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, 26th June 2013. Photo by Katie Webb.

A copyright warrior and a true defender of rights

by Olav Stokkmo


To Maureen, a much esteemed friend and colleague on her 80th birthday.

Maureen is rightfully appreciated both for her writing and as a true defender of rights – women’s rights, animal rights, human rights, authors’ rights. Many will acknowledge Maureen for successes such as Gor Saga, The Microcosm, That’s How it Was, Collected Poems, Family Values and other collections of poems, plays, novels and non-fiction works. My links to Maureen have primarily been as a highly valued colleague recognising her zealous efforts in relation to our shared interest in improving the rights of authors. This relationship also gradually developed into friendship.

I met Maureen for the first time in spring 1989, in Oslo. I had just recently joined Kopinor, the RRO (Reproduction Rights Organisation), or the collective for authors and publishers of text and image based works, in Norway, as its Deputy Executive Director. Maureen was visiting Oslo for meetings with other author representatives. When entering the meeting room she did not strike me because she was the tallest or most imposing person; however, she instantly came across to me as dominating it. Her empathy, competence, natural leadership, inclusivity and the low-key way of communicating her points and making herself understood and listened to was impressive!

From that day, more than anything else, Maureen has stood out to me as the “Queen of eloquence”. That image of Maureen has only been strengthened over the years as I have learnt to know her better and through numerous occasions when I have listened to her speak or intervene, in public as well as in smaller groups, or engaged in discussion with her. I continue to carry that image with me even today. She transmits and triggers enthusiasm for the causes that she advances in a way that few people I know are able to do. There is a saying: many can get a dog to sit, few can get it to sit wagging its tail. Maureen has the rare ability to engage people in a cause and get their support not only “wagging their tails” but also barking with joy!

Her personal and professional skills have also led numerous organisations to call upon Maureen’s involvement, as well as offering awards for her engagements and activities. I had the pleasure of cooperating with Maureen again in her capacity as Board member of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), the UK RRO, and when she was the President of the European Writers’ Council (EWC, at that time Congress) in 2004. At that time I had resumed the position of Chief Executive of IFRRO (International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations), the main international network for collective management organisations and authors’ and publishers’ organisations in the text and image sector. A main concern of hers was to secure a sustainable financial position for EWC; she presented a viable plan before stepping down as President in 2005. Several occasions that called for our collaborative efforts followed. In her 80th year, I am really pleased to see her back with increased involvement in the global copyright and authors’ rights arena, as a prominent spokesperson for the International Authors Forum.

It is Maureen’s aptitude to engage people, her enthusiasm, passion and eloquence that bring people to listen so carefully to her when she takes the floor, and which cause them to want to engage in exchanges with her. This is what makes, for instance, the WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, despite a busy schedule and probably overcharged with tasks at a Diplomatic Conference in Marrakech, when everybody looks for and wants a piece of him, at his own initiative, offer to lend an ear to Maureen and her concerns, wanting to discuss and consult with her. She is truly a priceless gift to those who advocate authors’ and intellectual property rights and defend their interests, to those who realise the value of making use of her qualities.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to listen to or exchange views with Maureen knows that her low-key and reflected way of communicating is always worth listening to. In the last decades few, if any, have done so much to put authors’ rights on the agenda in a positive and constructive manner. She has indeed earned her reputation as a true warrior for rights – animal, human, women’s and authors’ rights. Happy birthday, Maureen!

Brussels/Cagliari, 1 August 2013

Olav Stokkmo

Chief Executive of IFRRO

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