On Thursday, March 23rd I presented a Lunch & Learn at the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property.
I covered 203 copyright transfer termination rights mechanics, the post-2013 response of copyright creators and copyright-industries when the first termination “window” opened for post-1977 transfers, and stakeholder and commentator forecasts about whether the anticipated termination tidal wave of destruction is more academic than real.
Copyright transfer termination permits a copyright creator to reclaim control of his or her copyright several decades after transferring the right. This applies to all copyright transfers no matter what a contract may say about a perpetual transfer. Creators cannot waive this right. But they can forfeit it if they are not careful.
In fact, some creators have already forfeited their rights if they transferred copyright in 1978 and failed to serve notice of termination by 2016.
I offered some preliminary conclusions on the future of copyright-dependent industries in light of the 203 termination right.
Watch, listen and learn!
I am thrilled to announce that I will join the tenured faculty of The University of New Hampshire School of Law this fall as a Full Professor.
UNH Law, formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center, is a leader in intellectual property law, social justice, sports law, and innovative practical preparation and is ranked 82nd by US News & World Report. It is also home to the preeminent Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property (FPCIP) and the UNH Sports and Entertainment Law Institute (SELI).
I look forward to serving as an integral part of both FPCIP and SELI, and I will also continue my work in the areas of Trusts & Estates and Inclusion & Equity.
I am excited to announce that my hiring class includes Ryan Vacca. He is the David L. Brennan Professor of Law at The University of Akron School of Law, where he also serves as the Interim Co-Dean and Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Technology.
My departure from Widener Law Commonwealth is bittersweet; I have loved my time here! WLC has been a tremendous place to evolve as an educator and scholar in the legal academy while surrounded by wonderful, supportive colleagues and inspired by fantastic students (whom I will miss most of all!). Thank you for the well wishes I’ve already received.
Article Alert: Statutory Heirs Apparent explores copyright termination right succession in the entertainment industry
My latest article, Statutory Heirs Apparent: Reclaiming Copyright in the Age of Author-Controlled, Author-Benefiting Transfers (119 W. Va. L. Rev 297 (2016)), explores the intersectionality of estate succession laws and copyright and the unintended conflict between a deceased author’s testamentary freedom and the right of the decedent’s statutory heirs to terminate the decedent author’s lifetime transfers.
A number of notable songwriters have successfully reclaimed control over their copyrights from recording companies: Bruce Springstein, Loretta Lynn, Tom Petty, and an original “Village People” member, Victor Willis, for that perennial Karaoke favorite “YMCA”. They all lived long enough to see the copyright termination window open for their respective rights.
However, some authors are not so fortunate.
Case in point: The Ninth Circuit recently heard Ray Charles Foundation v. Robinson, 795 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2015). That case presents facts analogous to the problem the proposed amendment seeks to resolve; that is, when a statutory heir asserts a termination interest clearly contrary to the decedent author’s wishes.
In that case, Charles named his private charitable foundation as sole heir of his rights and recipient of his royalties during his life and thereafter. In fact, the Foundation is totally funded by the royalties and is prohibited from receiving any other means of support. Separately, he negotiated with his children (all 12 of them) to waive any right to his estate in exchange for half million dollars into an irrevocable trust for each. He died before the termination window opened. The perfect storm. Read more…
Perhaps it’s surprising that Pastor Shirley Caesar never registered her name as a source-indicating mark before now. Thankfully, trademark rights attach even to unregistered marks [NOLO.com] used in connection with sale of goods or, in her case, entertainment services as a world-renowned gospel recording artist.
And now after the “U Name It” Challenge [BET.com w/ sound] became a thing and gave new meaning to the phrase “going viral” recently, Caesar and her legal team realized that securing trademark rights in her name is as important as protecting her copyright interests.
About the “You Name It” Viral Clip
The video clip making viral rounds on social media is an excerpt from a live performance of “Hold My Mule.” The legendary gospel sermon has been edited to revolve around Caesar’s chant, “beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes,” in response to the question, “Grandma, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?” – BET.com
Statutory Heirs Apparent?: Reclaiming Copyright in the Age of Author-Controlled, Author-Benefiting Transfers, 119 W. Va. Law Rev. __ (2016).
This Article explores the intersection and disconnect between copyright law and estates law when a copyright owner dies before having the opportunity to exercise her termination right of an inter vivos copyright transfer. Specifically, I explore the impact of a statutory heir’s copyright transfer termination right on the original author’s testamentary freedom to the extent the decedent’s nonprobate disposition of assets is contrary to the “statutory will” disposition found in the Copyright Act.
Although copyright transfers made by will are not subject to a termination right, no such exception is made for an author’s lifetime transfers into vehicles controlled by the author. Examples of such transfers include those made into a performing artist’s loan-out company or a songwriter’s lifetime transfer of musical composition and sound recording copyrights into a self-settled irrevocable trust or charitable foundation.
The practical effect is that an heir (defined by the Act as a spouse, child or grandchild) who inherits the right to terminate any lifetime copyright transfer (including those just described), may exercise that right and successfully reclaim copyright ownership against the decedent’s intent to transfer copyright ownership at death to someone or some entity other than that statutorily prescribed heir.
I argue the termination right was intended to protect authors from being saddled for the full copyright term with bad deals made early in their careers when they had little, if any, bargaining power. The right was not intended to prevent authors from advantageous lifetime transfers into vehicles controlled by the author for prudent business, tax and estate planning reasons.
Many scholars, practitioners, and copyright transferees in the entertainment business surmised the likely impact of the first reclamation trigger date of January 1, 2013 under §203 of the 1976 Copyright Act on post-1977 transfer terminations. Some also expressed concern with the apparent distinction between, and treatment of, transfers by will and nonprobate transfers. This article focuses on what has actually transpired since that trigger date.
In addition, the article focuses on what might be done going forward to reconcile the probate and nonprobate disposition of copyrights in a way that best honors an author’s testamentary intent given what we now know from cases starting to make their way through the court system.
I am honored and excited to welcome my dear friend Reneé Brown to Widener Law Commonwealth to deliver the final Black Law Students Association Fireside Chat where students connect with high level executives in professional sports.
Reneé and I met some years ago at a Black Women in Sport Foundation banquet. She was being honored and I, known then as “Lawyer by Day, Poet by Night”, performed my signature piece, Find Your Own Shine.
Reneé, a huge admirer of spoken word and of tennis (which is great for a former pro tennis player like me, of course), loved the performance and we hit it off immediately. The rest, as they say, is history!
Reneé is extremely accomplished, authentic, generous, tough, funny, warm and kind. My students are extremely fortunate that Reneé is giving of her time to participate in this informal yet engaging presentation and chat.
Congratulations to BLSA for a stellar fireside chat lineup this year.
About Reneé M. Brown
Reneé Brown, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, oversees all player scouting and acquisition for the league, as well as the administration of player-related policies and programs. In addition, she is responsible for overseeing the policies for all on-court basketball operations.
Prior to being promoted to her current position, Brown served as WNBA Vice President and Senior Director. She joined the WNBA in September 1996 as Director of Player Personnel.
Brown also plays an integral role in USA Basketball, currently serving on both the Steering and Selection Committees. She has chaired the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team Selection Committee and served on the Executive Committee for USA Basketball for three consecutive quadrants, from 2000 to 2012. The U.S. Women’s Senior National Team won Olympic gold medals at the conclusion of each of Brown’s tenures, in 2004, 2008 and 2012. She also served as Vice President for the Senior Women’s Programs from 2000 to 2004.
During the 1995-96 season, Brown served as an assistant coach to Tara VanDerveer for the gold medal-winning USA Basketball Women’s National Team in Colorado Springs, where she helped with game preparation, player conditioning and scouting.
Brown served as an assistant coach for women’s basketball teams at the University of Kansas, Stanford University, and San Jose State University. During her tenure at Kansas, she helped guide the Jayhawks to an 88-31 record, four trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Big Eight Conference title. Her Stanford team won the NCAA tournament in 1990 and earned a trip to the Final Four in 1991.
Brown holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education, both from UNLV.