The U.S. Copyright Office joins intellectual property organizations around the world in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. The theme, set by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future. In announcing the theme, WIPO states: “World Intellectual Property Day 2022 is an opportunity for young people to find out how IP rights can support their goals, help transform their ideas into reality, generate income, create jobs, and make a positive impact on the world around them. With IP rights, young people have access to some of the key tools they need to advance their ambitions.”
Everyone, no matter their age, is a creator. And under U.S. copyright law, there is no minimum age to create a copyright-protected work and have the work registered with the Copyright Office. The Office’s exhibit, “Find Yourself in Copyright,” highlights Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’s work A Face without Freckles . . . Is a Night without Stars, which she created as part of an eighth-grade school project in 1996 and registered with the Copyright Office as a high school student.
A few years ago, at Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in the Copyright Office, a group of students, elementary through high school age, created a work of art together. Staff members then walked them through the registration process for the work, showing them how they are copyright owners. The students were surprised to learn that they had ownership rights in that work and in every other piece of artwork and photo they’ve created.
It was particularly refreshing to see the younger generation gain a new understanding of copyright. Based on my time working with middle and high school students, I’ve learned that many of them think copyright is simply about social media platforms taking down their video that uses someone else’s song, while there’s so much more to copyright, such as creativity and empowerment. The Copyright Office hopes to continue expanding this understanding and awareness. The Copyright Office’s 2022–2026 Strategic Plan: Fostering Creativity and Enriching Culture states four strategic goals, one of which is Copyright for All. Youth outreach fits under this goal.
For World IP Day 2022, the Office hosted two groups of performing arts high school students. They toured the exhibit, participated in discussions on visual and performing arts, and spoke with staff members from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division as they toured the exhibit Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America’s Library. Additionally, the Office hosted the virtual event Engage Your Creativity: Copyright and IP for Young Professionals, featuring speakers from WIPO and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Officials presented intellectual property (IP) basics from their agencies, and a staffer from the Copyright Clearance Center interviewed budding creators and held a question-and-answer session. The recording will be available on copyright.gov.
Over the past year, the Office and WIPO have hosted the Roundtables on International Copyright Education (RICE) series. Once a month, government officials from IP offices around the world met virtually to discuss IP education in their countries. Some countries have integrated or are working to integrate IP into their curriculum. One thing that officials from Trinidad and Tobago shared really stuck with me—their goal is a mindset change from “being employed” to “being an entrepreneur.” They encourage guest lecturers in schools to show the students what’s possible.
Other countries, including the United States, implement and determine school curriculums on a local level, and generally IP is not a required part of the curriculum, so it’s up to agencies like the Copyright Office and USPTO to provide needed educational materials. This summer, junior fellows in the Copyright Office will work toward this outreach goal. Their project will identify how primary and secondary school students interact with copyright law and will outline what they need to know and how the Copyright Office can present it. The plan will include a strategy for creating educational content, outlines of educational outreach and accompanying materials for teachers, and a draft communications plan. Visit the Office’s History and Education page to see what we’ve done so far, and check back to see what’s yet to come.