On July 8, 2020, we here at the U.S. Copyright Office celebrated the Office’s 150th birthday. When engrossed in the day-to-day rhythm of our lives, we may feel like not much changes. But looking back over the Office’s historical timeline reveals how different the Office is today compared to when Congress established it.
Copyright Office history reflects the United States’ creative and technical innovations, important judicial rulings, and diplomatic treaties. Look at the Office’s early years and imagine yourself as a young staff member at the start of your copyright career on July 8, 1870. You are learning to register photographs and photographic negatives, which received protection only five years earlier. A few years later, you are celebrating the Copyright Office’s tenth anniversary while adjusting to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that ideas are not protected by copyright—a concept taken as a given in 2020. Still later, as you reflect on more than twenty years with the Copyright Office in 1891, you are registering the first foreign works to come across your desk.
Now in the present day, we will look back at our rich history and, as part of the celebration, host “Copyright Office Presents: 150 Years of Celebrating Creativity” on August 5, 2020, online at noon eastern time.
We will hear from three engaging Copyright Office experts:
- John Cole, Library of Congress historian and author, whose work on the Copyright Office’s centennial exhibit led to his first published article
- Frank Evina, curator of the first Copyright Office exhibit in the Madison Building and retired senior information specialist, Copyright Office
- Heather Wiggins, supervisor in the Literary Division of the Registration Program, Copyright Office, and lawyer who teaches about copyright
We’ll explore how the role of the Office and its operations changed along with the law itself. We will share our interesting and unique stories, many of which may surprise you.
In addition to taking a peek into our (and copyright’s) varied history, we also will take a look at today’s Office, which is not standing still. As part of “150 Years of Celebrating Creativity,” we’ll discuss today’s expectations for the Office and how we’re building on the expertise of the past to move forward.
Join us on August 5 to celebrate 150 years of the Copyright Office. This online event is free, but registration is required. We hope to see you there!