An Empirical Study of the Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Age of Copyright Registrants

53 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2018 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019

See all articles by Robert Brauneis

Robert Brauneis

George Washington University - Law School

Dotan Oliar

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: April 7, 2018


Who is the author in copyright law? Knowing who our copyright system currently incentivizes to create which works is a necessary precondition for any effective copyright reform, yet copyright scholarship has thus far treated authors only through a priori conceptual analysis. This Article explores the author empirically.

Do those who self-identify as blacks (a U.S. Census category) register more music than members of other races per capita? Are Jewish authors particularly productive in registering literary works? What percentage of registrations represents works created by women? Which works tend to be registered by older authors? This Article provides answers to these questions—which happen to be yes, very likely, one third, and literary works—and to many more by statistically analyzing the records of all fifteen million works registered with the Copyright Office from 1978 through 2012. It characterizes the modern-day American author along the axes of race and ethnicity, gender, and age.

The Article spells out the implications for copyright theory, policy, law, and reform. Copyright theory must explicitly account for the mechanism by which the copyright carrot induces authors of different demographics to create different types of works. This mechanism appears to contain substantial situated components—including social, cultural, and gender-related characteristics—that the major theories of copyright law that assume author uniformity do not acknowledge.

Keywords: Copyright, Registrations, Empirical, Demographics, Gender, Race, Age

JEL Classification: C21, K23

Suggested Citation

Brauneis, Robert and Oliar, Dotan, An Empirical Study of the Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Age of Copyright Registrants (April 7, 2018). 86 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 46 (2018), Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2018-23, Available at SSRN:

Robert Brauneis

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Dotan Oliar (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3219 (Phone)

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