Historical and Revision Notes
house report no. 94–1476

The arguments in favor of lengthening the duration of copyright apply to subsisting as well as future copyrights. The bill’s basic approach is to increase the present 56-year term to 75 years in the case of copyrights subsisting in both their first and their renewal terms.

Copyrights in Their First Term. Subsection (a) of section 304 reenacts and preserves the renewal provision, now in Section 24 of the statute [section 24 of former title 17], for all of the works presently in their first 28-year term. A great many of the present expectancies in these cases are the subject of existing contracts, and it would be unfair and immensely confusing to cut off or alter these interests. Renewal registration will be required during the 28th year of the copyright but the length of the renewal term will be increased from 28 to 47 years.

Although the bill preserves the language of the present renewal provision without any change in substance, the Committee intends that the reference to a “posthumous work” in this section has the meaning given to it in Bartok v. Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., 523 F.2d 941 (2d Cir. 1975)—one as to which no copyright assignment or other contract for exploitation of the work has occurred during an author’s lifetime, rather than one which is simply first published after the author’s death.

Copyrights in Their Renewal Term. Renewed copyrights that are subsisting in their second term at any time during the period between December 31, 1976, and December 31, 1977, inclusive, would be extended under section 304(b) to run for a total of 75 years. This provision would add another 19 years to the duration of any renewed copyright whose second term started during the 28 years immediately preceding the effective date of the act (January 1, 1978). In addition, it would extend by varying lesser amounts the duration of renewal copyrights already extended under Public Laws 87–668, 89–142, 90–141, 90–416, 91–147, 91–555, 92–170, 92–566, and 93–573, all of which would otherwise expire on December 31, 1976. The subsection would also extend the duration of renewal copyrights whose second 28-year term is scheduled to expire during 1977. In none of these cases, however, would the total terms of copyright for the work be longer than 75 years.

Subsection (b) also covers the special situation of a subsisting first-term copyright that becomes eligible for renewal registration during the year before the act comes into effect. If a renewal registration is not made before the effective date [Jan. 1, 1978], the case is governed by the provisions of section 304(a) [subsec. (a) of this section]. If a renewal registration is made during the year before the new law takes effect, however, the copyright would be treated as if it were already subsisting in its second term and would be extended to the full period of 75 years without the need for further renewal.

Termination of Grants Covering Extended Term. An issue underlying the 19-year extension of renewal terms under both subsections (a) and (b) of section 304 [subsecs. (a) and (b) of this section] is whether, in a case where their rights have already been transferred, the author or the dependents of the author should be given a chance to benefit from the extended term. The arguments for granting rights of termination are even more persuasive under section 304 than they are under section 203; the extended term represents a completely new property right, and there are strong reasons for giving the author, who is the fundamental beneficiary of copyright under the Constitution, an opportunity to share in it.

Subsection (c) of section 304 is a close but not exact counterpart of section 203. In the case of either a first-term or renewal copyright already subsisting when the new statute becomes effective [Jan. 1, 1978], any grant of rights covering the renewal copyright in the work, executed before the effective date [Jan. 1, 1978], may be terminated under conditions and limitations similar to those provided in section 203. Except for transfers and licenses covering renewal copyrights already extended under Public Laws 87–668, 89–142, 90–141, 90–416, 91–147, 91–555, 92–170, 92–566, and 93–573, which would become subject to termination immediately upon the coming into effect of the revised law, the 5-year period during which termination could be made effective would start 56 years after copyright was originally secured.

The bill distinguishes between the persons who can terminate a grant under section 203 and those entitled to terminate a grant covering an extended term under section 304. Instead of being limited to transfers and licenses executed by the author, the right of termination under section 304(c) also extends to grants executed by those beneficiaries of the author who can claim renewal under the present law: his or her widow or widower, children, executors, or next of kin.

There is good reason for this difference. Under section 203, an author’s widow or widower and children are given rights of termination if the author is dead, but these rights apply only to grants by the author, and any effort by a widow, widower, or child to transfer contingent future interests under a termination would be ineffective. In contrast, under the present renewal provisions, any statutory beneficiary of the author can make a valid transfer or license of future renewal rights, which is completely binding if the author is dead and the person who executed the grant turns out to be the proper renewal claimant. Because of this, a great many contingent transfers of future renewal rights have been obtained from widows, widowers, children, and next of kin, and a substantial number of these will be binding. After the present 28-year renewal period has ended, a statutory beneficiary who has signed a disadvantageous grant of this sort should have the opportunity to reclaim the extended term.

As explained above in connection with section 203, the bill adopts the principle that, where a transfer or license by the author is involved, termination may be effected by a per stirpes majority of those entitled to terminate, and this principle also applies to the ownership of rights under a termination and to the making of further grants of reverted rights. In general, this principle has also been adopted with respect to the termination of rights under an extended renewal copyright in section 304, but with several differences made necessary by the differences between the legal status of transfers and licenses made after the effective date of the new law [Jan. 1, 1978] (governed by section 203) and that of grants of renewal rights made earlier and governed by section 304(c). The following are the most important distinctions between the termination rights under the two sections:

1. Joint Authorship.—Under section 304, a grant of renewal rights executed by joint authors during the first term of copyright would be effective only as to those who were living at the time of renewal; where any of them are dead, their statutory beneficiaries are entitled to claim the renewal independently as a new estate. It would therefore be inappropriate to impose a requirement of majority action with respect to transfers executed by two or more joint authors.

2. Grants Not Executed by Author.—Section 304(c) adopts the majority principle underlying the amendments of section 203 [section 203 of this title] with respect to the termination rights of a dead author’s widow or widower and children. There is much less reason, as a matter of policy, to apply this principle in the case of transfers and licenses of renewal rights executed under the present law by the author’s widow, widower, children, executors, or next of kin, and the practical arguments against doing so are conclusive. It is not clear how the shares of a class of renewal beneficiaries are to be divided under the existing law, and greater difficulties would be presented if any attempt were made to apply the majority principle to further beneficiaries in cases where one or more of the renewal beneficiaries are dead. Therefore, where the grant was executed by a person or persons other than the author, termination can be effected only by the unanimous action of the survivors of those who executed it.

3. Further Grants.—The reason against adopting a principle of majority action with respect to the right to terminate grants by joint authors and grants not executed by the author apply equally with respect to the right to make further grants under section 304(c). The requirement for majority action in clause (6)(C) is therefore confined to cases where the rights under a grant by the author have reverted to his or her widow or widower, or children, or both. Where the extended term reverts to joint authors or to a class of renewal beneficiaries who have joined in executing a grant, their rights would be governed by the general rules of tenancy in common; each coowner would have an independent right to sell his share, or to use or license the work subject to an accounting.

Nothing contained in this section or elsewhere in this legislation is intended to extend the duration of any license, transfer, or assignment made for a period of less than fifty-six years. If, for example, an agreement provides an earlier termination date or lesser duration, or if it allows the author the right of cancelling or terminating the agreement under certain circumstances, the duration is governed by the agreement. Likewise, nothing in this section or legislation is intended to change the existing state of the law of contracts concerning the circumstances in which an author may terminate a license, transfer or assignment.

Section 304(c)(6)(E) provides that, unless and until termination is effected under this section, the grant, “if it does not provide otherwise,” continues for the term of copyright. This section means that, if the agreement does not contain provisions specifying its term or duration, and the author has not terminated the agreement under this section, the agreement continues for the term of the copyright, subject to any right of termination under circumstances which may be specified therein. If, however, an agreement does contain provisions governing its duration—for example, a term of sixty years—and the author has not exercised his or her right of termination under the statute, the agreement will continue according to its terms—in this example, for only sixty years. The quoted language is not to be construed as requiring agreements to reserve the right of termination.

Editorial Notes
References in Text

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, referred to in subsecs. (b) and (d), is title I of Pub. L. 105–298, Oct. 27, 1998, 112 Stat. 2827. The effective date of the Act is the date of enactment of Pub. L. 105–298, which was approved Oct. 27, 1998. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title of 1998 Amendment note set out under section 101 of this title and Tables.

Amendments

2002—Subsec. (c)(2)(A) to (C). Pub. L. 107–273, in subpars. (A) to (C), substituted “The” for “the” and, in subpars. (A) and (B), substituted period for semicolon at end.

1998—Subsec. (a)(1)(B), (C). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(A)(i), substituted “67” for “47” in concluding provisions.

Subsec. (a)(2)(A), (B). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(A)(ii), substituted “67” for “47” in introductory provisions.

Subsec. (a)(3)(A)(i), (B). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(A)(iii), substituted “67” for “47”.

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(B), amended heading and text of subsec. (b) generally. Prior to amendment, text read as follows: “The duration of any copyright, the renewal term of which is subsisting at any time between December 31, 1976, and December 31, 1977, inclusive, or for which renewal registration is made between December 31, 1976, and December 31, 1977, inclusive, is extended to endure for a term of seventy-five years from the date copyright was originally secured.”

Subsec. (c)(2). Pub. L. 105–298, § 103(1), struck out “by his widow or her widower and his or her children or grandchildren” after “exercised,” in introductory provisions.

Subsec. (c)(2)(D). Pub. L. 105–298, § 103(2), added subpar. (D).

Subsec. (c)(4)(A). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(C), inserted “or, in the case of a termination under subsection (d), within the five-year period specified by subsection (d)(2),” before “and the notice”.

Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 105–298, § 102(d)(1)(D), added subsec. (d).

1997—Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 105–80 substituted “subsection (a)(1)(C)” for “the subsection (a)(1)(C)” in introductory provisions.

1992—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 102–307, § 102(a), amended subsec. (a) generally. Prior to amendment, subsec. (a) read as follows: “Copyrights in Their First Term on January 1, 1978.—Any copyright, the first term of which is subsisting on January 1, 1978, shall endure for twenty-eight years from the date it was originally secured: Provided, That in the case of any posthumous work or of any periodical, cyclopedic, or other composite work upon which the copyright was originally secured by the proprietor thereof, or of any work copyrighted by a corporate body (otherwise than as assignee or licensee of the individual author) or by an employer for whom such work is made for hire, the proprietor of such copyright shall be entitled to a renewal and extension of the copyright in such work for the further term of forty-seven years when application for such renewal and extension shall have been made to the Copyright Office and duly registered therein within one year prior to the expiration of the original term of copyright: And provided further, That in the case of any other copyrighted work, including a contribution by an individual author to a periodical or to a cyclopedic or other composite work, the author of such work, if still living, or the widow, widower, or children of the author, if the author be not living, or if such author, widow, widower, or children be not living, then the author’s executors, or in the absence of a will, his or her next of kin shall be entitled to a renewal and extension of the copyright in such work for a further term of forty-seven years when application for such renewal and extension shall have been made to the Copyright Office and duly registered therein within one year prior to the expiration of the original term of copyright: And provided further, That in default of the registration of such application for renewal and extension, the copyright in any work shall terminate at the expiration of twenty-eight years from the date copyright was originally secured.”

Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 102–307, § 102(d), substituted “subsection (a)(1)(C)” for “second proviso of subsection (a)” in introductory provisions.

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries
Effective Date of 1992 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 102–307 effective June 26, 1992, but applicable only to copyrights secured between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, and not affecting court proceedings pending on June 26, 1992, with copyrights secured before January 1, 1964, governed by section 304(a) of this title as in effect on the day before June 26, 1992, except each reference to forty-seven years in such provisions deemed to be 67 years, see section 102(g) of Pub. L. 102–307, as amended, set out as a note under section 101 of this title.

Effective Date

Subsec. (b) of this section effective Oct. 19, 1976, see section 102 of Pub. L. 94–553, set out as a note preceding section 101 of this title.

Legal Effect of Renewal of Copyright Unchanged

Pub. L. 102–307, title I, § 102(c), June 26, 1992, 106 Stat. 266, as amended by Pub. L. 105–298, title I, § 102(d)(2)(A), Oct. 27, 1998, 112 Stat. 2828, provided that:

“The renewal and extension of a copyright for a further term of 67 years provided for under paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 304(a) of title 17, United States Code[,] shall have the same effect with respect to any grant, before the effective date of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act [Oct. 27, 1998], of a transfer or license of the further term as did the renewal of a copyright before the effective date of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act under the law in effect at the time of such grant.”

Ad Interim Copyrights Subsisting or Capable of Being Secured Under Predecessor Provisions

Pub. L. 94–553, title I, § 107, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2600, provided that:

“In the case of any work in which an ad interim copyright is subsisting or is capable of being secured on December 31, 1977, under section 22 of title 17 as it existed on that date, copyright protection is hereby extended to endure for the term or terms provided by section 304 of title 17 as amended by the first section of this Act [this section].”

Copyright Granted to “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” for Term of 75 Years

Private Law 92–60, Dec. 15, 1971, 85 Stat. 857, provided: “That, any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, copyright is hereby granted to the trustees under the will of Mary Baker Eddy, their successors, and assigns, in the work ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ (entitled also in some editions ‘Science and Health’ or ‘Science and Health; with a Key to the Scriptures’), by Mary Baker Eddy, including all editions thereof in English and translation heretofore published, or hereafter published by or on behalf of said trustees, their successors or assigns, for a term of seventy-five years from the effective date of this Act [Dec. 15, 1971] or from the date of first publication, whichever is later. All copies of the protected work hereafter published are to bear notice of copyright, and all new editions hereafter published are to be registered in the Copyright Office, in accordance with the provisions of title 17 of the United States Code or any revision or recodification thereof. The copyright owner shall be entitled to all rights and remedies provided to copyright owners generally by law: Provided, however, That no liability shall attach under this Act for lawful uses made or acts done prior to the effective date of this Act in connection with said work, or in respect to the continuance for one year subsequent to such date of any business undertaking or enterprise lawfully undertaken prior to such date involving expenditure or contractual obligation in connection with the exploitation, production, reproduction or circulation of said work. This Act shall be effective upon enactment.”

Extension of Renewal Terms Under Prior Law

Pub. L. 93–573, title I, § 104, Dec. 31, 1974, 88 Stat. 1873, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Dec. 31, 1974, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–142, by Public Law 90–141, by Public Law 90–416, by Public Law 91–417, by Public Law 91–555, by Public Law 92–170, or by Public Law 92–556 (or by all or certain of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1976, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1976.

Pub. L. 92–566, Oct. 25, 1972, 86 Stat. 1181, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Oct. 25, 1972, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–142, by Public Law 90–141, by Public Law 90–416, by Public Law 91–147, by Public Law 91–555, or by Public Law 92–170 (or by all or certain of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1974, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1974.

Pub. L. 92–170, Nov. 24, 1971, 85 Stat. 490, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Nov. 24, 1971, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–142, by Public Law 90–141, by Public Law 90–416, by Public Law 91–147, or by Public Law 91–555 (or by all or certain of said laws), would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1972, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1972.

Pub. L. 91–555, Dec. 17, 1970, 84 Stat. 1441, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Dec. 17, 1970, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–442 [89–142], by Public Law 90–141, by Public Law 90–416, or by Public Law 91–147 (or by all or certain of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1971, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1971.

Pub. L. 91–147, Dec. 16, 1969, 83 Stat. 360, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Dec. 16, 1969, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–142, by Public Law 90–141, or by Public Law 90–416 (or by all or certain of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1970, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1970.

Pub. L. 90–416, July 23, 1968, 82 Stat. 397, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on July 23, 1968, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, by Public Law 89–142, or by Public Law 90–141 (or by all or certain of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1969, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1969.

Pub. L. 90–141, Nov. 16, 1967, 81 Stat. 464, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Nov. 16, 1967, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668, or by Public Law 89–142 (or by either or both of said laws) [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1968, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1968.

Pub. L. 89–142, Aug. 28, 1965, 79 Stat. 581, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Aug. 28, 1965, or the term thereof as extended by Public Law 87–668 [set out below], would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1967, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1967.

Pub. L. 87–668, Sept. 19, 1962, 76 Stat. 555, provided that in any case in which the renewal term of a copyright subsisting in any work on Sept. 19, 1962, would expire prior to Dec. 31, 1965, such term was continued until Dec. 31, 1965.