April 23 marks the anniversary of the birth or death of a range of well-known writers, including Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Maurice Druon, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Haldor Kiljan Laxness, Manuel Mejía Vallejo, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and William Shakespeare. For this reason, UNESCO's General Conference chose this date to pay tribute to books, the authors who wrote them, and the copyright laws that protect them.
A range of activities to promote reading and the cultural aspects of books are held all over the world. Many of these emphasize international cooperation or friendships between countries. Events include: relay readings of books and plays; the distribution of bookmarks; the announcement of the winners of literary competitions; and actions to promote the understanding of laws on copyright and the protection of authors' intellectual property.
In some years, the UNESCO Prize for Children's and Young People's Literature in the Service of Tolerance is awarded. It is also hoped that World Book and Copyright Day will increase people's understanding of and adherence to copyright laws and other measures to protect intellectual copyright.