Source code

James J. Besemer jb at
Tue Sep 17 08:54:15 CEST 2002

Paul Rubin wrote:

>"James J. Besemer" <jb at> writes:
>>Furthermore, even if you formally assign the copyright to somebody
>>else, I understand ownership eventually reverts to the original author
>>after a lengthy period (45 years or something).  Evidently it
>>preserves the copyright for the heirs of the author.
>I heard the opposite.  In fact part of the debate before the 1976

That was over 25 years ago and a considerable amount of copyright 
legislation has been passed since.

My above blanket statement is not 100% correct.  It IS possible to 
permanently transfer rights to a copyrighted work.  However, the 
contract has to be "just so" to meet all of the provisions of the law. 
If the contract does not meet all of the statutory criteria, then the 
original author retains the right to terminate transfer of the copyright 
after 35 years (though it's not automatic, as I implied).

I dunno when the various laws came into effect (mid- to late-80's I'm 
guessing) but since before I started my own company in 1994, lawyers 
were very particular about the wording of contracts where copyrightable 
works were being created.  

Anyway, here's a document outlining the legal hoops relevant to 
retaining or transferring copyrights per current US legislation:


James J. Besemer		503-280-0838 voice
2727 NE Skidmore St.		503-280-0375 fax
Portland, Oregon 97211-6557	mailto:jb at	

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