Challenge,  On Writing

Sucked Down a Copyright Hole…

I Do That To Myself At Times…

I am such a copyright junkie, when given the excuse, I find myself going deeper and deeper into legal articles and having so much fun. That’s where I lost a few hours tonight.

If you have no idea why I would think copyright is fun, take the Magic Bakery classic workshop. Or read my book on the topic. Copyright is magic and is why WMG Publishing exists, five employees have their jobs, and Kris and I live in this fantastic new place.

One place I played tonight was the 35 year rule. For example, I signed maybe 60 Work for Hire contracts in my early years of writing. 1991 to 1998 or so. Not a one of them was legal under copyright law and the definition of Work for Hire in copyright. Not for one moment, one second, was I ever considered an employee of any publishing company except Pulphouse. I am not even an employee of WMG Publishing Inc.

Most of the contracts (I have not checked them all) also said that if not considered a “Work for Hire” contract, it would be deemed an “All rights” contract.

All fair and good, except with all rights contracts, the 35 year reversion rule applies and I can get my copyright back after 35 years by filing for it in the United States. Oops for the corporations who own those contracts.

Many musicians right now are using this rule.

Almost all (not all, but almost) of those sixty novels are full of trademarks that I do not own. Since I would own the copyright if successful with the 35 year rule, there might be places I could leave the trademarks legally with the right notices, but mostly I would have to just clean them out of each book.  Trademark law is just crazy.

So once again, even though I am still a few years away from even thinking of doing something this crazy, I spent some hours tonight down in legal articles and brushing up on things like Public Domain and such.

So a fun evening. Not as much fun as writing, but sometimes a person just gets lost. (grin)


  • JM6

    I thought you had prepared a rights reversion package a few years ago for some of those.
    Did life get in the way or did you decide to wait until more books were past the 35 years so that you could do fewer requests?

    • dwsmith

      I talked about doing them as they started to happen more, mostly over in music. My first book in this kind of thing was contract-signed in 1991. A bunch more in 1992 and so on.

      1991 is within the filing window, but reversion date must be after 35 years and there are other provisions such as signed for publication that shift dates around. So yes, waiting until I got a bunch. Got some years yet. Not many, but some.