Friday, June 9, 2023

Get Ready to See More Copyright Litigation

It’s bad enough fair use has become the Colosseum of U.S. Copyright law. But starting on January 1, 2013, we may have more copyright litigation concerning a little-known provision of the 1976 Copyright Act. Section 203 of the U.S. Copyright Act, Termination of transfers and licenses granted by the author, states that “[i]n the case of any work other than a work made for hire, the exclusive or nonexclusive grant of a transfer or license of copyright or of any right under a copyright, executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978, otherwise than by will, is subject to termination[.]”

What this basically means is that artists and other creative individuals will generally have the right to reclaim ownership of their creative works made after January 1, 1978, unless they were employees while they created artistic works, or fall under a work-for-hire provision.

According to the NY Times, this provision is bound to be hotly contested in the area of music recordings, particularly when it concerns big music stars like Bob Dylan, The Eagles, and Bruce Springsteen and the big four recording companies. So, where these musicians employees? Not so fast says June Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at the Columbia University School of Law. Applying “common sense,” we must ask, “Where do they work? Do you pay Social Security for them? Do you withdraw taxes from a paycheck? Under those kinds of definitions it seems pretty clear that your standard kind of recording artist from the ’70s or ’80s is not an employee but an independent contractor.”

I’m a bit short on time right now so I cannot fully digest this situation, but the one question I do have in mind is how this will affect — if at all — visual artists.

Update: August 17, 2011

Village People band member files transfer for his share.


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