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Three Ways Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, Shows Us That Copyright Registration Is for Everyone

You are a creator. You are a copyright owner. You are a user of copyright. Copyright law encourages all walks of human life to express their creativity. Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, is a prime example of just how wide copyright law’s inclusivity stretches and proves that registration is within reach for all of us.

Here are three ways Meghan Markle shows us that copyright registration is truly for everyone:

  1. Age is Just a Number

Meghan Markle’s work, A Face without Freckles . . . Is a Night without Stars, is evidence that the law puts no age restriction on copyright ownership or registration. She created the hand-illustrated work as part of an eighth-grade school project in 1996. It was as a high school student that Markle registered and deposited a copy of her work with the Copyright Office.

As long as the author is able to fix in a tangible form an “original work of authorship,” even a child’s work is protected by copyright and can be submitted to the Copyright Office for registration. Moreover, the child should be named on the application as the author of the work they created. Copyright ownership belongs initially to the author(s) of the work, meaning unless ownership has been transferred to another person or organization by written agreement or through another legal means, the minor themselves is the owner of the copyright.

Copyright law places no aesthetic ranking on the expression of creativity. When examining for sufficient creativity, registration specialists do not distinguish between “high” or “low” art or “good” or “bad” art. When it comes to copyrightability, a child’s school project or a toddler’s “scribbles” are held at just as high of an esteem as the world-renowned pieces of artwork found in any of the national galleries.

  1. Unpublished Works = Hidden Gems

For copyright purposes, a work is unpublished if no copies have been distributed to the public and no copies have been offered to a group for further distribution, public performance, or public display. When you register your work with the Office, you as the applicant must determine whether the work is published or unpublished.

Publication is not a requirement for registration. This means, assuming a work meets the copyright law’s copyrightability standards, even if a work was created for a purpose unrelated to copyright or a work was created to only be consumed by its author, it’s eligible for registration. Surely, teenage Markle did not expect her eighth-grade Immaculate Heart High School project to become a treasured find in the Copyright Office’s holdings of deposits, let alone featured as an artifact in the Copyright Office’s new exhibit, Find Yourself in Copyright.

For further information regarding publication, see chapter 1900 of Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices.

  1. This Is Your Sign: Register Your “Rough Draft” 

Since publication is not a requirement for registration, the Copyright Office examines works in various stages of their creation process. After you’ve written, composed, drawn, or sculpted a work into a fixed form, your work can be submitted to the Office for examination even if it’s incomplete. Registration will cover the exact copy of the work submitted. If you choose to submit later drafts of your work, registration will cover only the new material that has been added since the work was last registered.

Your meeting doodles, personal letters, home videos, and class projects are all eligible for registration. You never know what it’ll become.

For more fun facts about copyright and the artifacts found in the Office’s collection of deposits, visit our History and Education page, follow our Copyright: Creativity at Work blog, and when the Madison Building in Washington, DC, reopens to the public, be sure to visit our exhibit, on the fourth floor.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Conversations About Creativity, Hope, and Healing, Part 2

This Women’s History Month, we celebrate the intersection between creativity, hope, and healing. In part two of our two-part blog series, we talk to some more of the women who work at the U.S. Copyright Office about what it means for them to be creative.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Conversations About Creativity, Hope, and Healing, Part 1

I have always been someone who likes to make things. I love to bake and cook, I like to knit, and I make my own ceramics. I am drawn to items that were made by hand, either by me or someone else, and I am convinced that I will never be finished finding art for […]