As the calendar crossed into June after this weekend, an important date quietly ticked over for U.S. creators: the 225th anniversary of the first U.S. Copyright Act.

Passed in 1790, when the country itself was barely into its teen years, the act holds an esteemed place in American history as one of the earliest laws passed by our First Congress.

The Declaration of Independence is rightly hailed as our nation’s most important historical document. The unassuming and admirably concise copyright act lines up not far behind it as a cornerstone of national identity and the foundation of American creativity.

Throughout the nation’s history, copyright has played a vital role in defining creative rights. It’s a time-honored tradition that has evolved to meet the needs of creators in the moment, from the aforementioned act covering “books, maps and charts,” through the rights of all authors and photographers in the mid-1800’s and on to movies and music recordings during the last century.

If that all seems too far in the past to grasp, consider this: copyright is now a $1.1 trillion economy that employs 5.5 million people in the United States. Everyone from studio runners to superstars, basement musicians to international DJs, rely on copyright to apply their creative talent in a way that the law says should afford them protection and control of their work.

Economically and culturally, as copyright turns 225, it adds up to one of the most important business sectors, not just here at home but also around the world. Even as bootleggers, digital piracy and other threats attempt to undermine that value, history and law are on the side of creators. It will always require someone to stand up against those who threaten copyright or try to denounce the system as outdated, but a mission that was good enough for George Washington is good enough for us!

The central tenet here is that creative work is work.

Hard work, in fact, and work that deserves the recognition and respect that other professions take for granted. 

creative work t shirt

To celebrate the date and that sentiment, the Copyright Alliance commissioned this anniversary t-shirt. Even the price is commemorative at $17.90, so snap one up here before they’re gone and literally wear your support for creative rights with pride!