Celebrating 225 Years of the U.S. Copyright Act

June 2, 2015

This past weekend — May 31 to be exact — marked the 225th anniversary since U.S. Copyright Act was signed into law. To help celebrate this occasion, our friends at the Copyright Alliance have begun a new online campaign asking Americans to consider the meaning, value, and many forms of creative and intellectual expression in the United States.

For over two centuries, the Copyright Act has been the backbone of American creativity, innovation and economic growth. When the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia to craft our Constitution, they specifically gave Congress the 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.” This founding principle became further cemented as part of our national character in 1790 when Congress passed and President George Washington signed the Copyright Act into law.

In the years since that momentous occasion, copyright law has turned our nation into the global cultural, technological and economic leader that it is today. Copyright also remains among the most effective guarantors for the creation, production and dissemination of cultural works.

From the printing press and motion pictures to recorded sound and today’s variety of legitimate online streaming services, copyright has been at the root of American innovation, consistently evolving and developing in response to new technological and marketplace developments. But through all of its modifications, copyright has continued to help ensure creators and their work are protected. As a result, the United States today is home to a vibrant and unparalleled creative economy in which core copyright industries added more than $1.1 trillion dollars in value to the U.S. GDP, accounting for 6.71% of the economy, and employed nearly 5.5 million American workers in 2013 alone according to the International Intellectual Property Association.

American industries that rely on copyright face significant challenges today, especially the ease in which creative content can be stolen and disseminated online.  As a nation we cannot allow this treasured principle to be weakened by those claiming that this cornerstone of our nation is outdated in the digital age or those seeking to profit by infringing on the creativity and hard work of others. Rather, copyright is responsible for inspiring and supporting many of the great innovative technologies and services we rely on in our daily lives. For the film and TV industry, copyright has led in the United States to the creation of more than 100 legal online distribution services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime among others, as well as cloud services such as Ultraviolet that give consumers easy access to legal content.

At the MPAA, we look forward to continuing to work with others to protect and promote the principles of the U.S. Copyright Act that have been so vital to our nation’s development. Copyright has been a  guiding light for 225 years, and working together as a country, we can ensure that it continues to be one for centuries to come.