Heirship Litigation, Copyright

One of the side-effects of Copyright Term Extensions is that adding decades to Copyright Terms years after the author or artist is dead has led to the question of who owns the new term. The problem is that the Copyright Term Extension was typically not known to be an asset of artist and author at the time or their death and so was not addressed in the probate process or in their will – so who gets the rights? Are they distributed under the usual rules of intestacy, which might leave them in the hands of multiple descendants with joint or divided rights, do they go to the heir in a will of the original copyright – if there is divided ownership does one holder have a duty to account to the others. What law applies? Is it the law of the place where the artist or author was resident at death, the law of the place where the work was created, or the law of every place where a copyright subsists or where a work is found? It has proved remarkably messy, as the amounts at stake are from time to time very large, especially when film rights are involved.

Related Terms