Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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2310.4 (A) What Types of Grants May Be Terminated Under Section 304 (C)?


2310.4 (A) What Types of Grants May Be Terminated Under Section 304 (C)?


Under the previous copyright law, the copyright in a work could be secured by publishing the work with a proper copyright notice or by registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The term of the copyright was divided into two consecutive terms: an initial term of twenty-eight years and a renewal term that lasted for another twenty- eight years. The initial term began when the copyright was originally secured through registration or publication with notice. The renewal term began twenty-eight years thereafter if the copyright owner filed a renewal application with the Office.


When Congress enacted the current copyright law, it maintained the renewal system for works that were protected by copyright as of January 1, 1978. In addition, Congress extended the length of the copyright term to seventy-five years, consisting of an initial term of twenty-eight years and a renewal term of forty-seven years. The nineteen additional years that Congress added to the renewal term are known as the “extended renewal term.”


At the same time, Congress created a procedure that allows an author or the author’s heirs to terminate a grant that transferred or licensed the copyright to a third party and to reclaim the copyright for the duration of the extended renewal term. This procedure is set forth under Section 304 (C) of the Copyright Act. See generally H.R. REP. NO. 94- 1476, at 140-42 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5756-58; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 123 (1975); Notice of Termination, 66 Fed. Reg. 22,139, 22,139 (May 3, 2001).


Section 304 (C) of the Copyright Act may be used to terminate a grant executed before January 1, 1978 involving the copyright in the renewal term or any right under the renewal term, provided that the grant was executed by one or more of the following parties:


• The author of the work.


• The author’s widow, widower, or children.


• The author’s executors.


• The author’s next of kin.


See 17 U.S.C. § 304 (A) (1) (C), (C).


Grants executed on or after January 1, 1978 are not subject to termination under Section 304 (C). Likewise, this provision does not apply to grants made by will, grants involving a work made for hire, or grants involving rights arising under any other federal, state, or foreign law.


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