The Termination of Transfer (“ToT”) tool, a collaboration between Authors Alliance and Creative Commons, empowers authors to regain control of their work. This tool enables authors to learn about termination of transfer provisions, which allow authors to terminate licensing arrangements they have made with publishers that have prevented them from sharing openly or otherwise re-releasing their works. Anyone, including artists, photographers, scholars, and scientists, can use this new tool to discover more about eligibility and timing requirements for  the right to take back rights previously assigned away. While this tool is currently U.S.-based only, Creative Commons plans to internationalize it for use worldwide.

Authors Alliance manages the website, its content, the tool, and engagement with the public. Creative Commons hosts the website and the ToT tool, and provides technical support. Please direct all inquiries about the site to info@rightsback.org.

A Brief History

The original beta of the ToT tool was developed by Creative Commons a few years after the original Creative Commons licenses were published. Creative Commons published Beta1 on December 21, 2006, under the leadership of Mia Garlick, its first General Counsel. Dana Powers was instrumental in building the original code base and assisting in the development of the logic model for a user-friendly interface that navigates extremely dense and intricate provisions of U.S. copyright law. As Mia noted in her blogpost announcing Beta1, “the provisions are very complex and have not been frequently used [and] the termination provisions are currently so complex and technical that this tool can only serve an informational role.”

Creative Commons elected not to publish a final version of the ToT tool or recommend it for public use in 2006 for several reasons, including the reality that the tool is useful only for agreements governed by U.S. law. Although a U.S.-based organization, Creative Commons is international in its mission and reach, and this tool felt niche to U.S. authors.

However, in July 2015, Creative Commons partnered with the Arcadia Fund to reimagine and update the tool with a central objective to expand its reach internationally. While the termination rules are specific to U.S. copyright law, the laws of several other countries provide some manner of termination or reversion right to authors and creators who have assigned them away. Creative Commons kicked off a renewed ToT project in 2015, and immediately approached Authors Alliance about collaborating on the U.S. version of the tool. Authors Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of authors who want to take advantage of opportunities of the digital age to share their creations with readers, promote the ongoing progress of knowledge, and advance the public good. Having their collaboration and co-stewardship made immediate sense. The tool is in demand by those who want to regain access to their scholarship and creative works in order to reach broader audiences, potentially through use of a Creative Commons license.

In partnership with Authors Alliance, Creative Commons published the second beta (Beta2) in October 2016 and opened the public comment period. Seeking public comment feedback is standard practice for Creative Commons for all legal tools it develops and stewards. The project is hosted on Github, where all major decisions and changes to the tool from Beta1 to Beta2 to the current Version 1.0 are available for public review.

This project is made possible by the generous support of the Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

What’s Next

As of the October 2017 launch, the tool is applicable only to agreements governed by U.S. law. Creative Commons continues to work on international extensions and plans to publish a database with information about termination and reversionary rights in other countries in 2018.


We are grateful for the tireless efforts of Michael Wolfe, former Executive Director of Authors Alliance; Brianna L. Schofield, Executive Director of Authors Alliance; Erika Wilson, Communications and Operations Manager at Authors Alliance; Diane Peters, General Counsel of Creative Commons; and Rob Myers, Core Systems Manager at Creative Commons. We are also indebted to law students Eric Malmgren, Erica Row, and Julia Wu, and their supervisor Jack Lerner, at UC Irvine Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic; and law students Sean Doran, Luke Ewing, and Andi Wilt, and their supervisor Blake Reid, at Colorado Law Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic for their assistance with the development of the tool. Finally, we would like to thank Lawrence Lessig, Mia Garlick, and Dana Powers, formerly of Creative Commons, for their vision and leadership in launching the initial Beta1 version.

Support Our Work

Authors Alliance and Creative Commons are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that depend on your contributions. To support the work of Authors Alliance, including the operation of this website, please donate through Authors Alliance’s website. To support the work of Creative Commons, including internationalization of the tool, please donate through Creative Common’s website.