In March 2017, a team from the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre (OIPRC) won a tender from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to study voluntary copyright registration and deposit systems in the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.  The project was led by Dr Dev Gangjee and Professor Graeme Dinwoodie, assisted by graduate students, Alexandra Mogyoros and Baao Zhao.

Building on previous research conducted by Dr Gangjee on voluntary copyright registration, the OIPRC team assessed the extent to which the voluntary registration of title in copyright protected works is practically useful. Copyright is unusual in that formal registration is not a precondition for recognising property rights in (say) a book or song. The owner is usually the person who creates the work. However voluntary registration of ownership has proved useful in both the US and China. Two teams of Oxford researchers conducted field-based interviews with registry officials and expert practitioners in both these countries, in order to assess the effectiveness of these copyright registration systems on the ground.

The EUIPO has summarised the findings of the final report in a press release (13 June 2018)

The study shows that, despite being voluntary, copyright registration has proved useful in both countries across a range of contexts:

  • in domestic litigation, by setting up rebuttable presumptions relating to ownership and/or authorship, the date of registration (and creation) and the protected status of the subject matter;
  • in international litigation, by providing potentially persuasive evidence of rights;
  • in various rights enforcement contexts, e.g. as a precondition for litigation to protect US copyright works as well as access highly desirable legal remedies;
  • potentially in opposition as well as invalidation proceedings for preventing claims to other IP rights (such as trade marks);
  • in several commercial scenarios, e.g. for mergers and acquisitions, outright transfers of ownership, licensing activity etc;
  • to support sector-specific innovation policies.

A link to the full report is available here.