Standing in line at the DMV, I fretted. Had someone else secured 17USC101 for use on a personalized plate in North Carolina? “Absurd,” I thought, “and yet conceivable.”

17USC101. Title 17 United States Code Section 101 et seq. The Copyright Act of 1976, the statutory source of current United States copyright law, is the framework relied on by authors and publishers to structure deals and bring books and derivative works to market. It is also the basis for most decisions made by courts adjudicating copyright disputes (remnants of the prior Act of 1909 still pertain).

As I waited at the DMV—and still today—17USC101 seemed the perfect plate for a copyright attorney in North Carolina, where copyright practitioners are thin on the ground. It proclaims who I am and what I do. To others who have ventured a guess, “USC” signifies a university in Southern California or South Carolina. Alumni or fans of those schools might have reserved that plate before me, though I wonder what they would have made of “17” or “101.” My neighbor, a police officer, recognized USC as the federal code and only asked, “Which Title is 17?”

The day that I applied my claim was uncontested, and that plate became and remains mine.