December 21, 2006 · Lessig
This is a fun project I’ve been pushing inside CC which, thanks to endless work by our GC Mia Garlick and a Stanford student, Dana Powers, has now launched as a beta.
The background is this: US copyright law gives creators an inalienable right to terminate any “transfer” or assignment of copyright after 35 years. The idea was to give the creator a second bite at the apple, an idea that goes back to the first US copyright law.
The problem with the procedure is — surprise, surprise! — it is INSANELY complicated. It is almost as if — AS IF — it was designed not to be used.
So Creative Commons decided it would take a crack at making the system easier. We’ve developed a tool that will help an author determine whether or when an assignment is terminable. And our idea is to work with legal aid clinics around the country to refer likely terminators for final termination (it is an irresistible word for us Californians).
At this stage, the tool doesn’t refer you. And you should not use or rely on anything that comes from this BETA. But we’d be very eager for people to play around with it and give us feed back on the tool. When we’re really confident we’ve got all the logic right, and it’s clear enough, and when we’ve lined up volunteer projects around the country to represent authors whose transfers are to be terminated, we’ll launch the project.
Why is this a Creative Commons project? We’ve seen CC from the start as a tool to help creators manage an insanely complicated copyright system. When we have this running, we’ll offer any copyright owner who has reclaimed his or her rights the opportunity to distribute the work under a CC license. But that will be optional. Right now, we’re just offering the tool to make it simpler for authors to get what the copyright system was intended to give them.