Copyright

Salary and Career Info for Copyright Lawyers

Copyright lawyers require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Lawyers are required to have a Juris Doctor degree and their law license. Lawyers who specialize in copyright law focus on intellectual property, which includes music, writing or art. They protect clients from having their work used unlawfully or without permission.

Essential Information

A copyright lawyer's job is to protect a client's original creation from unlawful and unauthorized usage. The field in which these lawyers practice is called intellectual property law and can include areas such as property law, Internet law and trademark law in music, writing or art, among other fields. As it is for any type of lawyer, earning a law degree and passing the bar exam are the main requirements. Some law programs allow students to specialize in intellectual property law, while other schools offer master's degrees in this field.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Licensing Must earn law license by passing bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Median Salary (2016) $142,821 for intellectual property attorneys**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale.com

Salary Information

Lawyers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earned a median annual wage of $115,820 in May 2015. Salaries can be significantly higher for attorneys in specialized fields, such as intellectual property law. PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that the median salary of an intellectual property attorney was $142,821. Most salaries ranged from $80,509 to $202,772.

Some copyright lawyers working with a corporate firm earn health and retirement benefits as well as performance bonuses, which can increase their annual compensation packages. Additional compensation opportunities may not be available or as comprehensive for attorneys who work for themselves or for smaller practices.

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Career Information

Education

A lawyer's career starts with a bachelor's degree. While there aren't any specified pre-law majors, prospective copyright lawyers can choose courses that emphasize writing, speaking and critical thinking. Beyond that, all employers require applicants to have at minimum a Juris Doctor (J.D.), or law degree. Within a J.D. program, many schools offer a specialized certificate in intellectual property while others offer a Master of Law in Intellectual Property. In addition to internships or other types of on-site job training, students must demonstrate knowledge in the following subjects and more:

  • Copyright Law
  • Trademark Law
  • Patent Law
  • Comparative U.S. and European Patent Law
  • Internet Law

Certification

Upon earning a law degree, aspiring copyright lawyers must pass a bar exam in the state in which they plan to practice. The National Conference of Bar Examiners helps set the standard by which bar exams are judged. The group also developed a multi-state exam that allows an attorney to pass just one six-hour test and be eligible to practice law in more than one state.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicted in 2014 that job opportunities for lawyers would increase by 6 percent through 2024. Meanwhile, copyright law continues to evolve, especially concerning intellectual property created on the Internet. A report in 2010 by Washington State University said that Internet technology is expanding faster than copyright law can keep up. As content creators, attorneys and courts work to understand and apply laws to this constantly changing medium, copyright lawyers will continue to be in demand.

Due to the ease of accessing material via the Internet and the ability to create content on the Internet, copyright is continuing to evolve to address social media and new technologies. Copyright lawyers focus on helping artists protect their work, and are expected to remain in demand, in part due to the ongoing changes within copyright law resulting from the Internet.

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