Returning Authors’ Rights: The Authors Alliance/Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool
Termination of transfers: Get rights back!
Creators of all kinds routinely transfer rights to their works (by signing publication contracts that assign copyright to their publishers, for example). While many of these agreements last “for the life of copyright” (which under current United States law generally means seventy years after the author dies), the law takes into account that these terms can ultimately be unfair to authors and artists. This is where “termination of transfers” come in.
In the United States, authors can use the termination of transfers laws to regain the rights they have signed away. But because the law is complex, and because it requires that authors wait years or decades to take advantage of it, creators need to be patient, savvy, and persistent to exercise this right.
Many people use terminations because their works are tremendously successful, and they want to recapture rights to enjoy more of their work’s financial success.
Many others find that their works are no longer as available as they might wish. Their books might be out of print, or their songs might not be digitized or available online. For creators who want their works to be widely shared and enjoyed—who want to take advantage of a vibrant internet that might not have existed when they signed that contract all those years ago—terminations are a powerful option for getting their works back out in front of audiences.
Whatever they choose to do, it is important that creators know this law exists, and that they feel empowered to take advantage of it. Authors Alliance and Creative Commons developed this tool to raise awareness of the law and its importance to creators who want to share their works widely.
What does this tool do?
This tool is designed to raise awareness of the termination of transfer provisions, to encourage authors to figure out whether the termination rights of U.S. copyright law may be relevant to their works, and to help people understand how termination of transfer works. It does so with explanatory materials and by explaining how hypothetical scenarios would work under the laws for termination of transfer.
Once authors and other users understand how termination of transfer works, they can seek licensed legal counsel who can assist in determining whether termination rights do in fact exist, and in exercising any existing termination rights. Remember that this tool is provided for educational and awareness-raising purposes only—it is not legal advice or analysis and cannot substitute for the services of an attorney.
Where to start?
For a more details about the tool, please read our Overview page. See our Useful Documents page for suggestions about where information about a work may be found. If you would like additional information about the law surrounding the termination of transfers provisions or this tool, please take a look at our FAQ. And for definitions of important terms, take a look at our Glossary.
To start working through the tool, click the “start” button below.
This website and the termination of transfers tool are not legal advice, nor does using this website or the termination of transfers tool create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an attorney if you would like legal advice about your rights, obligations, or individual situation.