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June, 3rd, 2024

Copyright law includes an interesting clause at 17 U.S.C. ┬ž 203:

(3) Termination of the grant may be effected at any time during a period of five years beginning at the end of thirty-five years from the date of execution of the grant; or, if the grant covers the right of publication of the work, the period begins at the end of thirty-five years from the date of publication of the work under the grant or at the end of forty years from the date of execution of the grant, whichever term ends earlier.

This is particularly interesting for the software that runs our modern society.

Most of that software is open source, which does not mean that it is free of copyright but rather that its authors granted a free license to the world. Some of that software is work for hire, which means that its authors granted all rights to their employers.

Regardless, those grants are terminable and the right to terminate is inalienable. No matter what terms the authors agreed to, thirty five to forty years ago, they can revoke and renegotiate today.

This is sort of a “cliff” on which almost all modern technology is poised.

If you’re an author – or an author’s heir – who is interested in your termination right, please call or e-mail us.

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