Thursday, January 04, 2007

Copyright Recapture By Authors and Heirs (Ch 7)

An exciting period of negotiating and litigating is starting to pick up: authors and heirs of authors are starting to exercise their rights to "recapture" copyrights that had already been sold to publishers, record companies and other content owners. Content owners will come under increasing pressure to squeeze value from copyrights in their waning years - - and projects involving recaptured properties will dot our cultural landscape for the coming years.

The cases to date have dealt with such important properties as Winnie-the-Pooh, Lassie, Captain America and certain Steinbeck works

For a great article on copyright termination from a living author's perspective (17 U.S.C. 203 - Termination of transfers and licenses granted by the author), check out Margo E. Crespin's "A Second Bite of the Apple: A Guide To Terminating Transfers under Section 203 of the Copyright Act" which is found at the Authors Guild website.

For a cookbook/questionnaire type approach that has a useful discussion of how to figure out whether or when you can get your client's copyright back, check out Creative Commons' ccLabs Termination of Transfer Tool. Read the FAQ - these are the questions that your clients will be asking you in coming years. 17 U.S.C. 304 governs terminations of grants of pre-1978 copyrights by authors and their heirs.

The Crespin article and the Tool are very helpful since the language and meaning of Sections 203 and 304 is very difficult to master.

Trusts and estates attorneys take note! The Copyright Act has a number of succession provisions that trump the language of an author's will. Federal law is said to "preempt" state law in this area.

Copyright Restoration Act - Locating Restored Works

Section 104A of 17 U.S.C. restored copyrights in certain foreign works that had fallen into the public domain due to a failure to carry a copyright notice. The restored copyright vests initially in the author or initial rightholder of the work. If an owner intends to enforce the copyright against someone who used the work in the U.S. based on that person's reliance on the work's public domain status, the owner must file a notice with the Copyright Office, which must in turn be published in the Federal Register.

To search the Copyright Catalog to find Notices of Intent to Enforce (NIE), go here.
To get the Copyright Office's Federal Register notices indexed by year and title or subscribe to an RSS feed to get them automatically, go here.To search the entire Federal Register for recent years go here.

To search the Code of Federal Regulations for any number of reasons, go here.