Copyright Equality

The Hollywood Reporter has a guest column by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who this week introduced a bill entitled the “Copyright and Marriage Equality Act.”  The proposed legislation would address what Leahy terms “vestiges of discrimination” in the Copyright Act, namely, a provision in the act that “grants rights to surviving spouses of copyright owners only if the marriage is recognized in the owner’s state of residence at the time he or she dies.”  While the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor mandated equality for same-sex marriages with respect to federal recognition and benefits, and subsequent rulings have expanded the number of states that recognize same sex marriage, there are still fifteen states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.  As Leahy explains, “[t]his means a writer who lawfully marries his or her same-sex partner in Vermont or California is not a ‘spouse’ under the Copyright Act if they move to Florida, Georgia or one of the other states that do not recognize marriage equality.”  Leahy’s bill “amends the Copyright Act to look simply at whether a couple is married, not where a same-sex married couple happens to live when the copyright owner dies,” which he believes “will ensure that the rights attached to the works of our nations gay and lesbian authors, musicians, painters, sculptors and other creators pass to their spouses the way they now do for heterosexual creators.”  Read the full article here, and Leahy's press release on the legislation here.

Reposted from The Hollywood Reporter.