June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month, when we recognize the history and impact of LGBTQ individuals in the United States.
This year, the Copyright Office celebrates Pride Month and extends our World Intellectual Property Day campaign by spotlighting Olivia Charmaine Morris (she/her), who is a queer media mogul and entrepreneur from Cincinnati, Ohio (based in Los Angeles, California). Morris, widely known as “O,” makes it her mission within the creative community to shine a light on “people of color and colorful people.” Office staff sat down with Morris for a conversation about the key role the copyright system has played in her artistry and business development.
After receiving a BFA in film and TV production from New York University, Morris began her career as a development executive for original scripted programming at TBS. She went on to serve as senior director of development at Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street production company and, most recently, as vice president of the production company Straight to Cards.
Morris says that first and foremost she is an artist who “grew up really rich in the arts,” attending operas and ballets and visiting art museums at an early age—laying the foundation for her to become the artist she is today. Equally important to Morris is that she is an activist. She has dedicated her decade-long career to fusing art and activism to push cultural conversations. Morris said she sets out to develop “stories that generate empathy by showing different perspectives and points of view,” including from those who have been historically underrepresented in their fields.
Morris described how, throughout her career, she’s often been the only one in the room of media executives (the only woman, the only African American, the only queer representation). This motivated Morris to establish her company, Black Monarch Entertainment, which is “a full-service entertainment and production company that highlights emerging artists in Hollywood and elevates the voices of writers, producers, and developers.” She said it was “a product of necessity.”
Morris is also the creator and host of an Instagram TV show called The Tea, where she carves out “space for emerging women to . . . embrace new [creative] ideas.” During the pandemic, a time of social isolation and unrest, the show became an online community where a spectrum of “colorful” creators could sip tea and converse on topics such as career advice, social challenges, self-care, and beyond. Morris registered part of the show with the Copyright Office as a motion picture, and the registration record is in our public catalog.
This year’s World Intellectual Property Day theme was Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity. We took this opportunity to commend the willpower of women creators and entrepreneurs and celebrate how women’s entrepreneurship enriches our cultural landscape and contributes to economic growth. For Morris, this willpower came from an epiphany. She shared:
I wanted to establish my own lane. Having worked at a lot of big companies and with a lot of big-name talent, [I noticed my work] was always to boost that brand or that person. I was in the shadow shining the light. Then I asked myself, ‘What does it look like to turn those resources onto myself, even if just for a moment in time?’
It isn’t enough for Morris to create—she also engages in the copyright system. Morris talked about how, early on, she recognized the importance of doing so, especially as an entrepreneur. “The moment I wrote my first screenplay, I knew I needed to protect it,” she said.
While copyright protection is automatic and begins the moment a creative work is fixed in a tangible form, Morris appreciates the additional legal benefits afforded through registration with the Copyright Office. She explained, “The first thing you hear in the entertainment industry is, ‘Hey, that was my idea,’” and as such, she has always been quick to document the creations of her mind. “Everything has to be properly attributed,” she said.
The Copyright Office is focused on broadening awareness of what the copyright system encompasses and how to participate in it. A cornerstone of our current strategic plan is “copyright for all,” and the Office is dedicated to making the copyright system as understandable and accessible to as many members of the public as possible, including individuals, small entities, and historically underserved communities.
Looking for resources to learn more about the LGBTQ experience? Visit loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month.
For more on how registering your work with the Copyright Office can provide greater protection and help grow your creative business, read our handout Copyright Registration at a Glance.