The World Book and Copyright Day is an annual event celebrated on April 23, created by UNESCO to encourage reading, publishing and copyright, and to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors. The event was first celebrated on 1995 and the date was chosen for its historic significance in the world of literature. In 1616 of the same date, Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, known for his masterpiece Don Quixote; renowned playwright and poet, William Shakespeare; and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all passed away. Yet, also on this same date, other famous authors such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K. Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejia Vallejo were born.
It’s been 15 years since the holiday was launched, and it is now being observed by millions of people in over a hundred countries, as a chance to reflect and gain knowledge about a significant theme and to gain a deeper appreciation and awareness of books as a compass for values and as a storehouse for knowledge, and an often vague heritage. Books also open our eyes to cultural diversity; pave the way for dialogue; are sources of material wealth as well as the copyrighted works of creative artists.
This year’s theme revolves around preserving the cultural heritage of the world, as well as a discussion on the evolving trends in book publishing and copyrights with regards to new technologies and how this has transformed the industry and what impact it has on publishers, authors and readers. According to UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, in a message that marks the World Book and Copyright Day, change has given rise to “sharp new debates over the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of products, the nature of copyright, and the role of libraries relative to online knowledge; about the meaning of “authorship” in a world of blogs and wikis.” She placed emphasis on exploring all the possible consequences of the change, while preserving the values and the forms of expression that the world shares and cherishes. She further adds that UNESCO’s role is to give a platform for debate and to act as a knowledge-broker to explore old and new ideas.
The director-general announced that UNESCO will hold the second UNESCO World Forum on Culture and the Cultural Industries this coming June in Monza, Italy, with the theme “The Book Tomorrow, the Future of the Written Word.”
World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated the world over in different ways. In Spain, people celebrate by holding a two-day readathon of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In Sweden, the celebration is called Världbokdagen and places emphasis on appreciating books. In UK and Ireland, World Book Day is celebrated on the first Thursday of March instead of April 23 in order to avoid clashes with their Easter School Holidays. Other means of celebrating the World Book and Copyright Day literary contests and actions, which spread and encourage the knowledge of copyright laws and protecting the author’s intellectual property rights.