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

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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 Unpublished Works = Hidden Gems

For copyright purposes, a work is unpublished if no copies have been distributed to the public and no copies have been offered to a group for further distribution, public performance, or public display. When you register your work with the Office, you as the applicant must determine whether the work is published or unpublished.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

Comments (26)

  1. Absolutely love this article. Thanks for posting.

  2. Thanks for making this information readable and usable for such a wide variety of people.

  3. Megan, you are such a superb woman with elegance that words cannot describe. Thank God for your husband, the prince, and the love of your life. Your home is blessed in the name of Jesus Christ. Shalom!

  4. Insightful thank you for this article. Age is not a limitation to register your work.

  5. Thank you

  6. This was such a cute, fun way to explain copyright! Thank you

  7. ‪Why was she given a copyright for a plagiarized lyric from the Pala Joy Waltar song, A Sky With No Blue Musical note. Lyrics include the line “a girl without freckles is like a night without stars”. Stealing & copyrighting other people’s creative ideas is not a good example‬

    • Copyright protection under Title 17 of the U.S. Code extends only to an original work of authorship. To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a certain minimum amount of authorship. Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection. Even if a short phrase is novel or distinctive, it cannot be protected by copyright. Read more information.

  8. Meghan Markle stole that quote, she should not have been given a copyright

  9. Thank you. I had thought I was to old to start and was just sharing my books with friends.

    You have inspired me to continue.

  10. I must register my utter dismay at the publication of this article by the US Copyright office. Is this some PR puff piece for Meghan Markle? Can we have a time when things are written without mention of a person with royal title whose only achievement is pretty much only that? What about other Black women who have written influential books that actually touch on family, society and our Black identity. Don’t insult us please with these PR pieces written to make MM seem important. Enough!

  11. Until coming across this site by accident, I had no idea I could learn directly about how to copyright, at my own pace. This is very nice, thank you, and I like the personal stories.

  12. This is a highly inappropriate example for a copyright article; Meghan Markle is a well known plagiarist of the works of other writers and artists. She steals their phrases, their visuals. Even a cursory internet search of her plagiarizing ways would quickly unearth that. Please bear in mind this looks like the Library of Congress is giving her a tacit endorsement.

  13. Very informative; very encouraging!

  14. Thank you very much. This was very interesting, and I love that you were able to find a way to highlight what you do as a positive government service, using the personal touch of a high profile woman. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has shown obvious excellent writing skills when writing about her miscarriage in the New York Times. The lesson being you never know what the future holds for you.

  15. Meghan Markle has deep pockets and could afford the costly attorney fees for her lawsuits. Many writers over the years with registered copyright have had their work taken by unscrupulous persons. Writers simply cannot afford up front attorney fees to the tune of 1000’s of dollars before a judge or jury has a chance to review the violation.

  16. I am dismayed a US government office would use Meghan Markle as an example. I agree with the commenter who asked if this is a Meghan Markle puff piece. Her copyright case was heard in a court in England and you use her in a USA article about copyright? No valid reason for her name to be in this article except to give her exposure. Shame on you. Whoever is pushing this woman in the US media is in a losing battle. The general public has realized the type of person she is and there is nothing about her to be admired.

  17. This was very informative in a relatable fashion. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I love this article! It is a fun and interesting way to explain copyright and its importance.

  19. Ashley,
    What a wonderful, well written article. It was informative, easy to understand and very relatable. The Duchess of Sussex analogy was an added flavor. Thank you for recognizing a women of color. This sort of representation is so important, especially coming from the voice of another women. Thank you for posting.

  20. Thank you for this very informative article. I appreciate the Meghan Markle story. It is a good way for me to explain the process to those who are new to it. As a black woman, I appreciate the reference and personal story. Thank you for all you do and continue to do to make the process easier to understand. Great job Ashley.

  21. Ashley – I love this blog post. I gained quite a bit of knowledge from the information you shared. As an English teacher, I will be using this piece in my classroom. My students will love the Duchess of Sussex example. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Love this blog post. Lots of good information. Thanks for writing and sharing.

  23. This article is a travesty and shows that using fan girls to write PR puff pieces for the US Copyright Office should not be allowed. First, you used as an example a woman repeatedly plagiarizes the works of others with no credit and no attribution to the stolen work.

    She has taken credit for copyrighting a book as a child that her father copyrighted for her. She took credit for changing a dish soap commercial when the letter was written by the entire class that Meghan just happened to be a part of, and again, Meghan’s father stepped in and got her a spot on a network (Nickelodeon I believe), and gave her credit when it was not her due. She has continued to spread this lie but any journalist or writer worth half their salt would have researched this thoroughly and not made this another Finding Freedom, where the source of the book was Meghan Markle herself.

    Please review the transcripts from the privacy lawsuit in Britain between Meghan Markle and ANL. Your article failed to mention that Meghan Markle, and her husband, repeatedly lied under oath about their input to the book Finding Freedom, and their contact and collaboration with the authors of that book. Let me say again, Repeatedly Lied. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry lied under oath on repeated occasions. She had to apologize to the court for “forgetting” to be clear on whose work went into the book and who communicated with the authors.

    Finally, this same woman has used money given to her by a member of the royal family to sue a free press. Repeatedly. She went on Oprah and told over 17 lies, mistruths and disinformation. Please don’t take my word for it, ask the Archbishop of Canterbury if the story she told was true about her marriage. And before anyone says “she didn’t mean the actual marriage,” she stated “we got married three days before…” That was one of many lies. As a government agency, you should not be promoting people who plagiarize, commit perjury, and whose husband has referred to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment as “bonkers.”

    As a retired auditor for an Inspector General office, I’m shocked that this article was allowed to not only be written on government time but published on a government website. And before you write me off as a Trump supporter, let me assure you I am and have always been a lifelong liberal Democrat and I’m a strong supporter of Black Lives Matter. What I’m not a supporter of is allowing celebrities who have a long & close relationship with plagiarism, mistruths, and disinformation, along with downright lying, being used as an example in a government webpage.

  24. I loved this informative, entertaining and educational article. I greatly admire Meghan Markle for her artistic talent, as an author and an actress. This article makes it easy to understand a complicated subject.

  25. Indeed. Copyright can be for everyone. Good article.

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