"For more than 100 years, the Copyright Act has ensured that someone who owns the rights to an original work can pass them on to their next of kin. Artists inspire and entertain us and they should be able to share the proceeds of what they create with all members of their families."
This was the poignant statement made by Congressman Derek Kilmer from the state of Washington in regards to a bill that was recently reintroduced to the House for approval. The bill aims to bolster the rights granted under the Copyright Act by extending protection to same-sex couples who oftentimes face difficult litigation when it comes to the transfer of intellectual property rights to their spouses, especially in states where same-sex unions are not considered legal.
Here in California, same-sex couples generally do not encounter too many legal disputes in regards to the transfer of copyrights upon death. This is because of how our laws are worded. Section 986.7 of the Civil Code in particular ensures that a copyright or right to intellectual property will transfer to heirs upon an artist's death. Because same-sex marriage is legal now in our state, this law now applies across the board.
But as some of our readers may realize, this isn't the case in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. According to the current wording of the law, transfer of rights upon death is only possible if a same-sex union is recognized in the state in which the right's owner died. This means that couples who live in states where their unions are not recognized may run into complicated litigation regarding the transfer of rights.
According to the introducers of the bill, this loophole in federal law creates an inequality that can be corrected with the passage of the reintroduced bill.
In the meantime, our Los Angeles readers will simply have to wait and see if the same protections California residents enjoy regarding copyrights will be applied to people all across the nation in the future.
Source: Multichannel News, "Bill Would Change Copyright Law to Protect Gay Couples," John Eggerton, Jan. 11, 2015