Article

RX for Copyright Death

Richard L. Barnes and Francis M. Nevins Jr.

This Article examines the effect of the copyright law on three situations. In the first, the author of an underlying work licenses the creation of a derivative work for a fixed period. In the second, the contract between author and licensee is silent on whether it continues through the underlying work’s renewal period. And in the third situation, although the contract continues through the renewal period, the author of the underlying work dies before the renewal term begins. In all three cases, the principle of discontinuity between the initial and renewal terms of copyright protection mandates the same result: the derivative work becomes unavailable to the public, suffering what is here termed copyright death.