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World IP Day: How the Copyright System Builds Our Common Future

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The following is a guest blog post by Miriam Lord, Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Public Information and Education. 

Each year on April 26, the U.S. Copyright Office joins intellectual property organizations around the world in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. This year’s theme, set by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is “IP and the Sustainable Development Goals: Building Our Common Future with Innovation and Creativity.” Established by the United Nations, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

The copyright system is a powerful mechanism for ensuring society’s wealth of culture and knowledge. The system also helps creators sustain themselves by granting them certain exclusive rights over their works. In the United States, this concept is so central that it is enshrined in our Constitution.

“Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

-United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

The U.S. Copyright Office’s mission is to promote creativity and free expression by administering the nation’s copyright laws and by providing impartial, expert advice on copyright law and policy for the benefit of all. The Office sees copyright as a solution for helping to achieve the SDGs. The Copyright Office’s strategic plan shares similar goals to the SDGs, including Enhanced Use of Data and Copyright for All goals. Through its Enhanced Use of Data goal, the Office uses data to inform policies, measure performance, and advance the state of copyright knowledge. Through its Copyright for All goal, the Office prioritizes making the copyright system as easy to understand and accessible to as many people as possible.

Understanding the copyright system through data

In support of SDG Goal #8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

The Copyright Office’s economic research explores the copyright system and its effects on creators, consumers of creative works, and the public. For example, the Office has studied gender in the copyright system and published a report, Women in the Copyright System: An Analysis of Women Authors in Copyright Registrations from 1978 to 2020. The report reveals a complex and evolving picture of women’s participation in the creative professions and their use of the copyright registration system.

The Office’s economic research mission is to cultivate credible scientific evidence upon which to base copyright-relevant policy and procedural decisions. The goal is to ensure that the system works effectively for the benefit of stakeholders and the public and that it operates in a way that is consistent with policy objectives.

Office staff recently sat down with Brent Lutes, the Office’s first chief economist, to discuss the intersection of economics and copyright. Lutes describes how the goal of copyright is to enhance the welfare of society by promoting access to creative works now and in the future by promoting cultural and scientific innovation. He explains what behavioral incentives are created by the copyright system, and highlights the importance of rigorous economic research to policymaking. Read more about the Office’s published and forthcoming economic research reports in the recent blog post “The Economics of Creativity: A Q&A with the Copyright Office’s Chief Economist.”

Visit the Copyright Office’s website to learn more about our economic research agenda, and to access our dataset.

Providing education about the copyright system

In support of SDG Goal #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

The more the Copyright Office knows about who is using the copyright system, the more targeted its work can be to broaden its educational reach and expand access. The Office’s research informs its education and outreach strategy.

Through expanding its education and outreach, the Copyright Office saw a 25 percent uptick in events and speaking engagements year over year in fiscal year 2023. Office staff interact with diverse audiences all over the country, from students and educators at all levels, to business and legal advisors, and across creative business sectors.

The Office exhibits and speaks about the copyright system at major conventions reaching thousands of people from around the world: for example, tabling at the Consumer Electronics Show, and tabling and hosting a panel at South by Southwest.

Leveraging its position within the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office provides in-person lifelong learning for all ages. For example, in the fall of 2023, the Office supported Junior Girl Scout Day at the Library, an empowering opportunity that enabled girls (and their parents) to learn about being both a user and a creator in the copyright system as they worked toward earning their Inside Government badge.

In response to increased demand for education about copyright, the Office launched a pilot webinar program this spring, called Copyright Essentials: Myths Explained. This well-received program attracted nearly 850 live attendees, and the recording is now available to view. In the program, two attorney-advisors in the Office of Public Information and Education sifted through copyright fact and fiction and pointed the public to helpful resources for musicians, photographers, visual artists, and writers.

The Office’s Spanish Language educational resources are growing, and those with questions can contact the Office in English or Spanish for assistance through the Public Information Office.

The Office uses its social media and blog platforms to highlight inclusion in the copyright system. For example, the Office’s blog has featured Sarah Beth Morgan, an animation director, illustrator, and muralist who is committed to advocating for women in the creative industries. The blog also featured media mogul and entrepreneur Olivia Morris, who has dedicated her career to shining a light on “people of color and colorful people” through artistic expression. Sharing stories about creators like Morgan and Morris allows the Office to illustrate the many ways that the copyright system works for the benefit of everyone.

Engage with the Office

Join the Copyright Office, along with collaborators in the intellectual property (IP) system, to observe World IP Day on May 1, 2024. Hear more from the Office and from across sectors about how IP advances the progress of science and the useful arts and builds our common future. Register to attend online.

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