Reflection of a Michigan Library Scholar: Copyright Through an International Lens

Copyright

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with the U-M Library Copyright Office (LCO) to develop a resource on international copyright law. As a rising senior who is still unsure of what I want to do after college, I am constantly looking for experiences to help guide me to a decision. This internship did just that. Interning with the Michigan Library Scholars Program not only helped me decide what I want to do once I graduate, but it aided my professional and academic growth. 

Copyright is a complex and complicated subject matter, and there are few resources that offer comprehensive summaries of different copyright systems around the world. The resource we created will allow library patrons to develop an understanding of various copyright regimes throughout the world and how they differ from the U.S. With such a scarcity of resources available on international copyright, this unique resource is a great way for people to get a quick and easy global overview of copyright law. Before this internship, I didn’t know much about copyright, let alone international copyright law, but within the first week, I was fully immersed in it. While overwhelming at first, it was a great way to gain a basic understanding of copyright, which was essential for our project. 

With 29 countries to research, working on this project taught me how to prioritize what is truly important, as well as project and time management skills.  In total, we were able to draft summaries for 8 countries, and I was able to research and create summaries for the copyright systems of the U.S., Canada, Japan, China, and India, as well as summaries for multiple international copyright treaties. This may not seem like a lot, but given how much time it took to research just one country, we ended up completing more than we thought we would. The research process for each country was quite lengthy. After reading a country’s copyright law, I read through over a hundred pages of supplementary materials to fill in any missing information. After reading through these materials, I would usually have around fifteen pages of notes that needed to be condensed into a five to ten page summary. While this process could take up to two weeks to complete, it ensured that the summaries would be accurate. I learned that quality is greater than quantity, especially when the summaries had to be as accurate and clear as possible. This was something that was hard for me to come to terms with at first, as I wanted to get through as many countries as possible. However, there is a trade-off between how many summaries I could write and the quality of each individual summary. Thus, it was important for me to realize that it was better to fully dedicate my time to perfect one summary than to try to get through as much as possible. This was an important lesson for me and a really good takeaway from this internship. 

Alongside the project and time management skills I gained throughout this internship, working for the LCO really helped me grow professionally. This was the first internship I had in an academic setting, and I didn’t know what to expect at first. Working in an academic setting really helped me develop my critical thinking and research skills. I was fortunate enough to work with a team that truly listened to my inputs and made me feel like an equal. At our weekly meetings, I felt like I was able to contribute to the project beyond simply conducting research and drafting the summaries. Our mentors honestly listened to what we had to say, and it allowed us to really perfect our project. As someone who loves working on research projects, it was incredibly interesting to do legal research for the first time. It can definitely be dense at times, but I was fortunate enough to have mentors that made sure I took breaks and wasn’t constantly working. This internship also introduced me to a new side of law--one that doesn’t involve courtrooms or clients. I’ve enjoyed seeing another way in which a law degree can be used, and the realization of how versatile a law degree can be has definitely made me more interested in pursuing law school. Overall, this internship has really helped shape my interests and future career path, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this. 

This internship has been incredibly valuable to me, and I am happy to say that I will be continuing on this project and working to develop a final product during the school year. I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing team, develop my research and writing skills, and learn more about libraries and the university in a way that I otherwise would not have been able to. Through trips to Blank Slate, tours of different museums and North Campus, a trip to the DIA, and the opportunity to use an Oculus Rift for the first time, I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable experience with the LCO. I look forward to continuing on this project and learning more about international copyright law in the coming months.