Termination Of Copyright Transfer Basics
Art Law

Termination Of Copyright Transfer Basics

While it’s commonly known that authors frequently transfer or assign their rights, usually to large corporate rightholders such as publishing houses, recording studios or film studios, the fact that an author can later terminate this transfer is less understood. In fact, I’d been practicing for a couple years before realizing that Section 203 of the Copyright Act provides explicit termination provisions. (Somewhere, my copyright law professor is cringing at my admission.) The agreements that authors sign sometimes on their face suggest that the assignee will own the copyright forever. The duration of the agreement might say that the terms last “for the period of copyright” or something to that effect. And yet, Section 203 effectively overrides this contract provision under certain circumstances. What are the requirements to effect a termination of transfer? First, the provision applies to transfers made on or after January 1, 1978. It applies to authors, their descendants or estate. In order to effectuate a transfer, the author must serve notice of termination on the rightholder. Notices of termination can be served no sooner than 25 years after execution of the grant (or 30 years if the grant covers the right of publication or 25 years […]

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