I got an interesting email from Lawrence Lessig yesterday, reviewing
some of the new projects Creative Commons has coming
up next year. (Nothing notable going on…I tossed CC some $$ this
year, and I encourage you to do the same. So I get all the emails.)

One project in particular stood out…it’s fascinating. A project
called Returning Author’s Rights (go about a third of the way down
the page there). From the description: Under US copyright law, a
creator has the right to “terminate” any transfer of rights he or she
made 35 years after the transfer. But to do so requires an insanely
complex series of steps which most creators simply don’t have the time
or knowledge to engage in. Thus, the law gives authors this right, but
the law is so insanely complicated that creators would have a
difficult time trying to exercise it. We can help with this. Over the
past year, we’ve been mapping out a computer program – a kind of
wizard for termination of transfer applications – that creators could
use to know whether they have rights that they might reclaim and to
help the authors reclaim those rights.

Uh, wow. I can see why they call it a “stealth project” elsewhere in
the description. I can’t wait to find and read more specific info on
this, but it is HUGE. There are many creators out there who have
signed over content that is no longer making the transferee any money,
but which the transferee holds onto as a matter of course. Music
examples alone abound. The possibility that authors could reclaim some
of these rights is awesome…I can’t wait to read more about the
project and the process. Who knew? Thanks again, Professor Lessig and
CC! You are doing important stuff.

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