Sunday 27 June 2010

Sen and the Art of Licence Termination

Here's something interesting from New York lawyer Shourin Sen: US copyright legislation gives authors and enumerated family members the power to terminate certain grants upon the completion of paperwork. These termination provisions, 17 U.S.C. §§ 203, 304(c) and 304(d), apply to, among other things, both exclusive and non-exclusive licences, assignments, mortgages and conveyances -- but not to terminate a "work made for hire" or grants made by will.

Congress enacted the termination provisions in order to give an “author a second chance to control and benefit from his work" and to "secure to the author's family the opportunity to exploit the work if the author died", according to Stewart v Abend, 495 U.S. 207, 218 (1990).

Shourin has launched an online calculator and website to enable readers to evaluate the rights and risks associated with the termination of copyright grants. While the termination provisions are regrettably intricate, this online calculator seeks to people through the basic issues and maths necessary to figure out when an author may terminate a grant. It does not cover all of the contingencies needed to make an evaluation, but seeks at least to provide a useful starting-point.

I thank Shourin for drawing this to my attention and would be interested to hear from any readers who put the calculator through its paces -- or, better still, who would like to review it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There seem to be some interesting limitations on this right, I think:

- where there are joint authors, a majority is required to terminate
- there is only a 5-year window to terminate the grant
- derivative works can still be exploited by the licensee
- it only covers that part of the licence that is for the territory of the US, so licensees can continue to exploit elsewhere