Perhaps we’ve been all wrong in our thinking about copyright. The US joined the Berne Convention in 1989, and stopped requiring the registry of new works for the granting of copyright (although there are still some legal advantages to registering). Instead, maybe we should have been keeping an eye on the UK clown community.

Apparently, clowns are not supposed to steal one another’s look, and doing so is considered a major faux pas. To help police this, the group Clowns International requires members to paint their clown faces onto eggs, which are then entered into the Clown Egg Register.

While simultaneously whimsical and horrifying, this provides an answer to where author Terry Pratchett came up with one of the more absurd aspects of his Discworld books.

h/t (and maybe curses) to Lisa Hinchliffe for bringing this to my attention.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


3 Thoughts on "A Solution for Copyright Reform: The Clown Egg Register"

Actually, registration is both immensely sensible and under many circumstances legally required, especially if you want to get paid.

Berne stands against copyright registration requirements imposed upon foreign citizens, not the citizens of one’s own country, and even then reasonable requirements are permitted.

Brazil, for one example, requires by law registration of all sound recordings, and the US to cite another example requires registration to collect mechanical music royalties (115-C-1: “To be entitled to receive royalties under a compulsory license, the copyright owner must be identified in the registration or other public records of the Copyright Office. The owner is entitled to royalties for phonorecords made and distributed after being so identified, but is not entitled to recover for any phonorecords previously made and distributed.”)

Recordation and enumeration of rights is a predicate to a sustainable economy for creators. Rights unenumerated are rights disrespected. It should be fast, easy and simple to find creators to obtain a license, send payment or both.

Nice … just hope (metaphorically) there aren’t any old rotten eggs under the old painted shells 😉

If the 6-8 month delays in fulfilling copyright registrations for monographs are any indication, there’s plenty of clowning around at the US Copyright Office. Around the corner, it sometimes it takes over a year, and repeat submissions, for the Library of Congress to catalogue a work submitted for deposit. Yet the United States is the only jurisdiction having a formal program of registration, and one of very few where intellectual property is truly protected in any significant way.

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