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Artists, Scholars Take Copyright Office on a Creative Adventure

I grew up with adventures on my mind. They often started in a library, where I could read about the adventures of explorers sailing the seas in search of treasure, warriors and wizards in a magical land, costumed heroes fighting crime in big cities, hobbits in Middle Earth, or of costumed superheroes battling criminal masterminds.

These were all adventures in the form of expressive works whose creators were able to benefit from copyright protections. Even when I go adventuring in person as an adult, I go to see great works of art and architecture, and the places connected to history’s prominent authors. They’re all things that are the subject of copyright law or would have been if they weren’t made so long ago.

The U.S. Copyright Office is excited to address this intersection of adventure and copyright with “Create an Adventure with Copyright,” the July 31 installment of the Copyright Matters series.

The program’s slate of presenters will talk about their work, their adventures, and how expressive works have grown out of those adventures.

Jeanne M. Fink

The presenters include Jeanne M. Fink, vice president and senior associate general counsel at the National Geographic Society. Fink, who earned a bachelor’s degree in music administration from the West Virginia Institute of Technology and a law degree from the University of Maryland, has been with National Geographic for thirty years.

She is in charge of the society’s vast copyright and trademark holdings, which includes an archive and library going back 130 years to its founding. Fink is charge of administering the society’s rights in 12 million images, 800,000 hours of video and film, and 6 million pages of content. She also clears rights for content that the National Geographic Society uses in its own online and physical platforms.

John W. Hessler

Also in the lineup is John W. Hessler, curator of the Library of Congress’s Jay I. Kislak Collections of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas. Hessler’s adventures climbing mountains, hiking through jungles, and exploring ruins feeds into his prodigious output as a writer and scholar.

Hessler currently concentrates on the linguistics and ethnobotany of medicinal plants used in the Nahau and Maya cultures and plant classification in traditional Amazonian culture. Hessler has produced his own bestselling book, Map: Exploring the World, as well as articles for the world’s most prestigious newspapers, magazines, and radio and television shows.

According to Hessler, his journeys throughout the Americas to study indigenous languages started with asking “Why do people write things down?”

A perspective he takes with him on his adventures is that of French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who, when studying the cultures of the Amazon, mused, “Writing is a strange invention. One might suppose that its emergence could not fail to bring profound changes in the conditions of human existence.”

Thus, the writing of language itself launches human adventures.

Andrea Sachs

Washington Post reporter Andrea Sachs will join the program to talk about her travels all over the world, which feed her travel writings for the Post as well as her appearances in other media.

Sachs holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and she has been on staff at the Post since 1997, moving to the travel beat in 2000. She advises readers on the strategies and tactics for successful and enjoyable travel, warns of scams and threats, and the latest deals. She brings her expertise from her own travels, whether close to home or from as far as Namibia or Russia.


Rounding out the program is a presentation by Shodekeh, a professional beatboxer, vocal percussionist, and breath artist. Shodekeh journeyed from his home in Baltimore to Tuva, a region of Siberia adjacent to Mongolia, to learn the art of throat singing.

In throat singing, developed by the herders of the central Asian plains, a performer can produce more than one pitch simultaneously. Shodekeh’s journey to Tuva and his interactions with Tuvan throat singers was featured in a 2016 documentary, Shu-De!

Shodekeh took his adventure in Tuva and has made it the basis of continuing adventures as he performs in a variety of venues with the Alash Ensemble.

“Working, traveling, and creating new sonic and musical languages of collaboration with Alash … is always a grand adventure unto itself,” Shodekeh says.

Admission is free to the event, to be held July 31 at 10 a.m. ET. A registration link is available on the Copyright Office’s website.

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