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Copyright in Pride

June is Pride Month, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the first pride parade in New York City. What do copyright and pride have in common? Quite a bit, actually. Where would our celebrations, our heroes, and our increasing understanding of advocacy and allyship be without posters and speeches? Literature? Zines? Given that, in honor of pride, the Copyright Office is highlighting just a few of the countless LGBTQ+ writers who have helped pave the way for the celebrations today through their contributions to the copyright record.

  • Larry Kramer. This playwright, author, and producer challenged the country to exercise compassion towards the HIV+ community. In his play, The Normal Heart (1985), a character remarks, “I belong to a culture that includes Proust, Henry James, Tchaikovsky, Cole Porter… Christopher Marlowe, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams, Byron, E.M. Forster, Lorca, Auden, Francis Bacon, James Baldwin… These are not invisible men.”Neither was Larry, who left behind a legacy when he passed away this April.
  • Audre Lorde. This poet was, and continues to be, a foundational voice on the importance of intersectionality in the fight for social justice. Her copyright registrations span poetry, prose, and film. In a 2000 interview, she explained, “My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds.”Her work has helped us understand how our struggles and triumphs are all interconnected, and her story has gone on to inspire films and biographies also registered for copyright protection.
  • Alison Bechdel. Graphic artist and author Alison Bechdel is perhaps best known for her graphic memoir and self-described autobiographical “tragicomic” Fun Home, registered in 2006. In the memoir, Bechdel confronts themes of secrecy, family, and self-awareness with frankness and grace while weaving important literature from other queer authors into her own narrative. The literary work also inspired a derivative work in the form of a Broadway musical, registered for copyright protection in 2013.
  • Kacen Callendar. A relatively new voice in queer literature, Kacen Callender has worked in the copyright ecosystem both as an editor and as the author of several young adult novels. Their work is undoubtedly inspiring the next generation of authors. Many may go on to create their own copyrightable works with characters not unlike themselves.

While there’s still a long way to go, the voices of today rest on the creative contributions of many. And not only is this year the 50th anniversary of NYC’s pride parade, but it’s also the Copyright Office’s 150th year. Since 1870, the Copyright Office has been fundamental to ensuring that creative works like writings are protected and preserved. Why? Creativity is an ambassador of our country’s voices and our hearts. So the Copyright Office celebrates our 150th year with a renewed excitement for the work by all authors copyright will continue to protect, as well as for what the future will hold.

[1] Kramer, Larry, The Normal Heart: By Larry Kramer; With an Introduction By Andrew Holleran and a Foreword By Joseph Papp. New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1985.
[2] Callaloo, Vol. 23, No. 1, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender: Literature and Culture (Winter, 2000)