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.

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