Associate Professor Tonya Evans, who teaches Copyright and other intellectual property courses, as well as Wills, Trusts & Estates, and Property at Widener Law School-PA, will present her current work-in-progress at the annual Drake Law IP Roundtable in Des Moines, IA March 27-28th, 2015.
The article explores a nuanced intersection and incongruence between copyright and estate law. Professor Evans assesses the ability of a copyright creator to make, for estate planning or purely business reasons, lifetime transfers of her copyright interests into her trust or entertainment services loan-out corporation, or, perhaps, to a charitable organization as a gift, and identifies an apparently unfettered right of that copyright creator’s Statutory Heirs (as defined in the Copyright Act), who stand to inherit the transfer termination right, to effectively terminate the creator’s transfer and override her testamentary freedom and intent to dispose of copyright assets in some other way.
The reason Statutory Heirs are so empowered is because although transfers made by will are not subject to a termination right, no such exception is made for inter vivos gifts or, more importantly for purposes of her Article, for a copyright creator’s testamentary transfers made by an instrument other than a will (a lifetime transfer into trust, for example, which is a commonly used “nonprobate” estate planning device).
In analyzing this apparently unintended conundrum, Professor Evans compares the rights of Statutory Heirs to inherit and exercise the termination right to other forced protections of spouses and children that limit a testator’s freedom; most notably community property rules, a spouse’s elective share and pretermitted heir laws.