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Copyright Termination Rights Can Affect Estate Planning

By Elizabeth T Russell • Feb 11th, 2012 • Category: Intellectual Property Law, Newest Post

I recently developed a short presentation for estate planners and copyright owners, describing the effect that copyright termination rights can have on a copyright owner’s estate plan.

Never heard of copyright termination rights? Here’s the digest version. Someone who transfers a copyright during life can later un-do the transfer and get the copyright back. All they have to do is wait 35 years, serve notice on the transferee and follow certain procedures outlined in the copyright law. There is only get a 5-year window of time to exercise this right, so the client needs to be advised well in advance. But this is a big deal: they have an absolute right to get the copyright back! And if the client happens to be dead when the time comes, his/her “statutory heirs” get this right and THEY can get the copyright back.

No matter what? That’s right. No matter what. The termination right is inalienable and cannot be waived. So once the client makes a lifetime transfer (yes, even to an inter vivos trust) — BOOM. The termination right exists and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

This all has potentially serious effects on estate planning. When an estate planning client presents with substantial copyright assets, therefore, it is advisable to consult a copyright lawyer before finalizing the plan.

Elizabeth T Russell is is a solo practitioner. Russell Law helps businesses protect their most important assets by focusing on intellectual property issues, specifically copyright, trademark and digital business. Elizabeth also enjoys a vibrant arts and entertainment law practice. You can contact Elizabeth at: Phone: (608) 285-5007 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.erklaw.com Address: 49 Kessel Court, Suite 200, Madison WI 53711
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