Termination of Copyright Transfers (Copyright Recapture)

Creative workers often agree to transfer all or part of their copyright before it is clear just how valuable their work is. The government has now made it possible for many creators and their families to get these copyrights back by filing a notice of termination with the copyright transferee and the US Copyright Office (also known as copyright recapture).

By terminating any previous licenses and assignments, you can protect the artistic integrity of your work by deciding how it is used in the future. You can also make more money by publishing the work yourself or using a third-party publisher who will pay greater royalties than you were getting before.

The date that you can get your copyright back depends largely on whether the transfer occurred before or after Jan. 1, 1978.

Copyright Transfers Before 1978

If a copyright was transferred prior to 1978, and if the the work was timely or automatically renewed, then the creator or creator's heirs often have the right to terminate the copyright transfer during a five-year window from 56 to 61 years after the copyright date. (Works published between 1923 and 1939 have their five-year window from 75 to 80 years after the copyright date.)

However, a notice of termination must be sent two to ten years before the desired termination date. Therefore, you need to take action no later than 59 years after the copyright date. You also have the option of sending the notice of termination starting at 46 years after the copyright date.

Copyright Transfers From 1978 To The Present

If a copyright transfer was made on Jan. 1, 1978 or later, then the creator or creator's heirs often have the right to terminate the copyright transfer during a five-year window. That window opens 35 years after the date the transfer was granted. If publication rights were included in the transfer, then the window opens instead on the earlier of 35 years after publication by the grantee or 40 years after the date of the grant.

However, a notice of termination must be sent two to ten years before the desired termination date. Therefore, you need to take action no later than three years after the five-year window opens for you. You also have the option of sending the notice of termination starting at 25 or 30 years after the date the transfer was granted.

We are available for a free call to discuss your copyright recapture.

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