Written by Joanna Hughes

Today is not just New Year’s Day, it’s also another annual observation: Copyright Law Day. And while it may not be as well-known as its shared holiday, it’s still important. Copyright.gov defines copyright as “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”

Meanwhile, Days of the Year argues, “Without it, we’d end up fighting and squabbling over who owns what, what constitutes fair usage, and spend all our time trying to defend our ideas and intellectual property.” This is the perfect occasion to highlight the professionals who navigate the complicated waters of copyright law.

Read on for a roundup of four reasons to consider a career in this in-demand legal field.

1. You will deal with many different issues.

“Copyright law protects the creators of expressive works, such as artists, photographers, writers and musicians, and gives them the exclusive right to protect how their works are used,” asserts FindLaw.

As such, you will have the opportunity to work on a variety of diverse topics. From Kim Kardashian trying to copyright her backside to street artist Shepard Fairey’s use of President Obama’s photo in his famous Hope poster during the 2008 presidential campaign, copyright law may sound dry, but it can actually be very interesting.

Law graduate Anna-Maria Alexandrou told The Guardian, “What I found most interesting about copyright law was the conflict between providing adequate protection for creators of original works and the extent to which these works should be available to the public.”

2. Modern societies and economies are based on copyright and IP.

Copyright law is a type of intellectual property law, upon which much of modern society rests. “Copyright law shapes the world we live in. It is supposed to encourage progress and creativity, enriching our culture and contributing to the growth of knowledge,” insists the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

FindLaw adds, “In today's economy much of a company's worth comes from the ownership of intellectual property. What do you think the value of the trademark for Coke™, Microsoft's Windows operating system, or the rights to the movie Gone With the Wind are worth, for example? Attorneys are generally involved in protecting this type of intellectual property, and their involvement could be in any one of numerous areas of the intellectual property field.”

3. It’s fast-moving and fast-changing.

“Copyright law is at the forefront of a changing technological world. It moves incredibly fast in unexpected capacities, which makes it a fascinating subject to study at university,” suggests The Guardian.

Legal professionals with expertise in copyright law, therefore, are uniquely positioned to set the tone. “Studying copyright law forces you to become creative. This form of law is relatively young, which means there are many grey areas you’ll have to make decisions on. In effect, you become the judge,” adds The Guardian.

Need more proof of the pivotal role copyright lawyers will play moving forward? Look no further than the EU’s controversial digital single market directive.

4. The job outlook is strong.

While job security alone may not be enough to inspire studies in a particular field, it’s icing on the cake -- especially when the outlook is as strong as it is for lawyers with backgrounds in intellectual property and copyright law.

In addition to earning undergraduate and graduate law degrees and passing the state bar, passing the patent bar exam administered by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can help those aspiring to practice intellectual property law gain a valuable inside edge. Additionally, obtaining a Master of Laws in intellectual property law or copyright law can enhance your professional prospects.

“This could help give you an edge in a hiring environment where many legal employers want to recruit specialists. You can develop knowledge in practice areas ranging from intellectual property rights to intellectual property law in cyberspace, as well as broaden your legal career options,” asserts Robert Half.

General counsel, too, will benefit from IP knowledge. Greenberg Traurig co-chair Cesar Alvarez said in Robert Half’s report, Client Dynamics Driving Change in the Legal Profession, “Globalization, increasing regulations, compliance and risk management, pressure for shareholder value, complexities inherent in intellectual property matters -- these and a host of other business challenges are falling to general counsel to manage. [...] I expect that will intensify within the coming years.”

The takeaway for aspiring legal professionals on Copyright Law Day? While IP and copyright lawyers may not often show up on courtroom procedurals in television and movies, the work they do is just as important.


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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