Re: escheat of a copyright

From: Terry Carroll <carroll[_at_]>
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 20:49:49 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 10 Sep 1996, Gregg L. Jansen/DELCO wrote:
> I am researching problems in copyright ownership for a paper I am
> writing. I am interested in cases where the trail of ownership
> vanishes. Particularly, I am interested in what happens to a
> copyright in such instances. One area that I have been unable to
> find any leads is when the owner of a copyright dies without heirs.
> It seems clear to me that his property, including the copyright, would
> escheat to his state of residence.

That's correct -- see section 201(d)(1).

> But what is the disposition of it after that point? Specifically,
> would the state in question be able to license/sell it, or would the
> copyright become public domain?

Although I don't recall ever seeing any cases on point, I don't see any basis for concluding that the government would be precluded from treating the copyright as would any other copyright owner. The only thing even remotely applicable to this is section 105, but 1) that only applies to the federal government, not to the states, and 2) even section 105 permits the government to receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

Terrence J. Carroll 
Attorney at Law                                      ph: 415/843-5090
Cooley Godward Castro Huddleson & Tatum             fax: 415/857-0663
Five Palo Alto Square            email (office): carrolltj[_at_]
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2155         email (personal):    carroll[_at_]
Received on Thu Sep 12 1996 - 03:56:06 GMT

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