Co-authored by Meg Efthimiadis, Assistant to the General Counsel, and Holland Gormley, Public Affairs Specialist
The following blog is a part of the Copyright Office’s Copyright for All initiative, which aims to make the copyright system as understandable and accessible to as many members of the public as possible, including individuals and small entities as well as historically underserved communities.
June is Pride Month, which is celebrated each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan and to honor the lives and experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Copyright helps to protect the rights of authors from all communities, allowing them to tell new and diverse stories that enrich our culture, educate the public, and inspire the next generation. In honor of Pride Month, and as part of our Copyright for All initiative, here are a few LGBTQ+ authors to inspire anyone to create their own copyrightable work!
Trinity and DeShanna Neal
Did you know that there isn’t an age requirement for registering your work for copyright protection? For example, author Trinity Neal co-authored the book My Rainbow with her mother while she was still a minor! When she was a child, Trinity, who is trans, wanted longer hair to match her gender expression but hated the feeling of hair on her back. Her mother, DeShanna Neal, then helped to create a wig for her daughter that was as “colorful and vibrant as she is.” The two of them realized other children could benefit from hearing Trinity’s story, and together they wrote a book about the experience, which was registered for copyright protection in 2020. If My Rainbow inspires the young readers in your life to create their own work for the next generation, you can introduce them to the basics of copyright through our Learning Engine video series.
Did you also know that you can register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, no matter your country of origin? Non-binary trans author Akwaeke Emezi, who was born and raised in Nigeria, has written several novels to critical acclaim and awards. In addition to two works for young readers, Pet and Bitter, they are well known for the semiautobiographical fiction Freshwater. As the copyright owner of their work, they have been able to connect with other media companies to create what is known as a derivative work. The story of Freshwater will become a TV series on FX, with Emezi acting as a writer and executive producer on the show. In early 2021, Amazon Studios and Michael B. Jordan won the auction for the screen rights for Emezi’s recently published romance novel, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, in a seven-figure deal prior to its publication in 2022.
Nghi Vo’s debut novel, The Chosen and the Beautiful, does what many of us would like to do: retell an old story. Published in 2021, the novel is a magical, queer retelling of a book that many of us read in school, The Great Gatsby. Since The Great Gatsby is a part of the public domain, the original work is no longer protected by copyright. It belongs to the public, rather than an individual, meaning anyone can use the work or make derivatives from it without need for permission from the copyright owner. Her inspiration isn’t limited to old stories, either; Vo says the inspiration for her Hugo Award-winning novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune came from a museum exhibit! You can learn more about the circumstances under which you might be able to use someone else’s copyright-protected work on our YouTube channel.
Pride is a month full of celebration, color, and parades of fun. But it doesn’t have to be confined to just one month! If the books, stories, songs, images, and more registered for copyright by LGBTQ+ creators inspire you and those in your life to engage YOUR creativity, you can learn more here. To learn more about copyright and pride you can also check out our blogs from 2021 and 2020. A full roundup of the Pride Month offerings across the Library of Congress, including events and educational resources to inspire year-round is available here.
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