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Intellectual Property Article Named Among Best of the Year

By Mary Wood

Dotan Oliar, center, K. Ross Powell ’15, left, and economics Ph.D. student Nathanial Pattison

Dotan Oliar, center, K. Ross Powell ’15, left, and economics Ph.D. student Nathanial Pattison’s paper is the first to study the contents of individual copyright registration records.

An article by Professor Dotan Oliar, K. Ross Powell ’15, and UVA economics Ph.D. student Nathanial Pattison was selected for inclusion in the 2015 edition of Intellectual Property Law Review, an anthology of the best IP law scholarship.
Articles selected for the Thomson Reuters (West) annual anthology represent “the best law review articles related to intellectual property published within the last year,” according to the publisher.

The paper, “Copyright Registrations: Who, What, When, Where, and Why,” is the first to study the contents of individual copyright registration records, and is intended to help lay down an empirical basis for evidence-based copyright lawmaking.

“We want to lay the foundation for subsequent work, by ourselves and hopefully by others too,” Oliar said. Looking at 2.3 million registrations from 2008 to 2012, Oliar and his co-authors discovered patterns in how businesses and people of different ages register their creative work.

“Firm authors tend to be geographically concentrated, and to register published works, computer software, periodicals, and movies,” Oliar said. “Individual authors tend to be geographically dispersed, and to register unpublished works, music, text, and drama.”

Most registered music works are by authors in their 20s, whereas a majority of computer software authors are in their mid-40s, and authors of literature are mostly in their late 50s.

“We find that older authors tend to register published works, whereas younger authors tend to register unpublished works,” he said. “This phenomenon may suggest that older, more experienced authors know their way in the market better than younger, less-experienced authors.”

Powell, who gained experience with registration records working on a previous paper co-authored by Oliar, said he learned much about the process of drafting an article for publication.

“Seeing the process play out was instructive,” Powell said. “It was proof of the lesson stressed so often by professors: It is critical to write, evaluate, rewrite, evaluate more, rewrite again.”

Powell, who graduated in May, plans to clerk for U.S. Judge Robert Doumar ’53 of the Eastern District of Virginia. He said he had to understand copyright regulations to know what the data from the records represented.

“One important contribution of our paper is that it suggests ways that improved access and understanding of the copyright records could help build upon these prior studies,” Powell said.

Oliar is continuing to expand his work on copyright registrations. He and George Washington University law professor Robert Brauneis are working together with the U.S. Copyright Office to make available to the public and analyze the office’s records dating back to 1978.