Annual revenues from industries reliant upon the copyright system in the United States hover between $1.2 and $2.5 trillion each year, or between 6% and 12% of the U.S. GDP. Because such a significant portion of the U.S. economy is related to the copyright system, the U.S. Copyright Office and Shira Perlmutter, the current Register of Copyrights, recently appointed its first chief economist, Brent Lutes.

This new role within the U.S. Copyright Office will permit formal evaluations and studies of the economic impacts of programs and policies that relate to the U.S. and international copyright systems. Lutes will use these findings to advise Register Perlmutter and other senior officials regarding the impacts on the office, copyright stakeholders, and the public. Lutes has also committed to determining how rules, procedures, and operational decisions impact the efficiency, accessibility, and utility to the public.

Lutes has highlighted several items on his agenda including analyzing and devising initiatives to tackle gender, racial, and ethnic disparities within the US copyright system. Currently, women represent 38.5% of authors of registered works. The number of white authors compared to their proportion in the United States is more disproportionate than decades before. For example, in the 1980s white authors accounted for 79.47% of copyright registrations as compared to their population makeup of 79.6%. However, as of 2010 white authors accounted for 73.96% of copyright registrations as compared to their population makeup of 63.7%.

Lutes has committed to working swiftly to close these disparities. Lutes began his new role in April 2022. While this new role will be flexible and adaptive, it will certainly be worthwhile to see inclusive efforts and initiatives for this significant sector of the economy.

Amber Crow is a Law Clerk, based in the firm’s Minneapolis, MN office.