News

“Returning Author’s Rights: Termination of Transfer” Beta Tool Launched

Mia Garlick, December 21st, 2006

Creative Commons is excited to launch a beta version of its “Returning Authors Rights: Termination of Transfer” tool. The tool has been included in ccLabs — CC’s platform for demoing new tech tools. It’s a beta demo so it doesn’t produce any useable results at this stage. We have launched it to get your feedback.

Briefly, the U.S. Copyright Act gives creators a mechanism by which they can reclaim rights that they sold or licensed away many years ago. Often artists sign away their rights at the start of their careers when they lack sophisticated negotiating experience, access to good legal advice or any knowledge of the true value of their work so they face an unequal bargaining situation. The “termination of transfer” provisions are intended to give artists a way to rebalance the bargain, giving them a “second bite of the apple.” By allowing artists to reclaim their rights, the U.S. Congress hoped that authors could renegotiate old deals or negotiate new deals on stronger footing (and hopefully with greater remuneration too!!). A longer explanation of the purpose of the “termination of transfer” provisions is set out in this FAQ.

Despite this admirable Congressional intention, the provisions are very complex and have not been frequently used. CC’s tool is intended to go some way towards redressing that. We have designed it to do several things:

• Raise awareness about the existence of these provisions
• Simplify the process for creators and their family members so they can more easily identify if an existing, long-standing agreement may be eligible for termination
• Connect people who may have a “termination interest” with lawyers who can assist them in exercising their termination right.

Unfortunately, the termination provisions are currently so complex and technical that this tool can only serve an informational role. Many aspects of the “termination of transfer” provisions require legal analysis which is impossible to code so we are working on linking the tool to legal referrals. This FAQ provides an explanation of the tool’s intended architecture.

At this stage, we have released the tool on ccLabs to get your input on its usability and functionality. Lest it not be sufficiently clear by now, let us repeat — it’s beta, it doesn’t generate useable results or connect you to a legal team just yet. Feel free to check it how it operates and give us your comments. We have set up a page on the Creative Commons wiki to gather comments.

To help those of you who don’t have a live case to test and who are unfamiliar with how the provisions work, we suggest you try one or more of the hypotheticals included on this page so that you can see the different aspects of the tool. Send us your feedback via the usual ccLabs methods or leave your comments on this page.

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