Copyrights after Death of Author

copyrights after death of author

If you are a writer, artist, musician, photographer or other professional who has created a copyrightable work, you should realize that you are creating an asset that should be carefully managed after you pass away.

The first thing that you should know is that if you have created a work after January 1, 1978, the copyright will generally last for another 70 years after you die.  This does not apply to works created under a pseudonym or published anonymously.  In those situations, the rule is that the copyright lasts for 120 years from creation or 95 years from first publication, whichever expires first. (Section 203 of Copyright Statute)

Under your Will, you may direct who inherits your copyrights.  Additionally, you may set up an “Intellectual Property Executor” to deal with such copyrights while a traditional executor handles your other affairs.  This may be important if management of your copyrights requires special business acumen.

Importantly, under the 1978 Act, the creater of a copyright who assigned the copyright has the right to rescind such assignment.  Additionally, if a loved one who has produced copyrighted material has passed away, the heirs or the executor may also have the right to rescind such assignment.

If you are the heir to (or an executor of) an estate of someone who has produced any copyrighted works, please feel free to contact us so that we can help you determine what rights you may have.