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This is Brian Hall, an attorney with Traverse Legal, PLC; a law firm that handles copyright litigation and copyright matters throughout the United States. Today, I will be addressing an issue that it coming up for the first time in the history of copyright law.
In particular, it is because dating back to January of 1978, when the new Copyright Act was passed, there was a provision added that essentially said, after 35 years, any copyright owner who licensed or transferred rights to someone else will have the ability to cancel or terminate that grant of a license. This is extremely important for several reasons.
First, if you are the owner of a copyrighted work and you licensed or granted the ability to someone else to use that particular work, you will have for the first time ever the chance to get the rights back to you solely. And the reason that’s important is because you might be able to renegotiate, so to speak, and cure what might have been an unfair or unprofitable license arrangement between you and the actual licensee. However, in order for you to take advantage of this, there are several things that you need to do. The most important being, after the 35 years from which you licensed to work, you need to provide two years in advance, in particular, notice in writing to the licensee saying that you will be terminating that license. You will need to file that notice letter with the U.S. Copyright Office, and there are other requirements in order to satisfy the statute. And when I say the statute, I’m talking about the Copyright Act or title 17 section 203 (17 U.S.C §203). So, you would be well served speaking with a copyright attorney that can interpret that particular language in that section 203 provision and guide you as to how you need to comply with it.
The reason this is also important is because licensees of these particular works may also be facing these issues for the first time. They may be receiving a letter from the copyright owner notifying them that they will no longer allow the license to continue. This may force the licensee to renegotiate. So, whether you’re in the music recording industry or have licensed works for use in your business or elsewhere, this is something you need to be aware of. Copyright attorneys know that this is coming up, but it is less likely that individual citizens including copyright owners and licensees of copyrights will know that this is actually about to occur. So, once again, 2013 marks the start the applicability of this particular provision of the statute. Again, the key dates to keep in the mind are 35 years from when you actually licensed the work is when you can first take advantage of this, and in order to do so, you must provide written notice at least two years before you intend to terminate the transfer of license granted on or after January 1, 1978.
Once again, if you have questions, you would be well served speaking with a copyright lawyer who can guide you through this important process.
This has been Brian Hall addressing what will be a critically important new update to copyright law starting in 2013.
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