Are you ready to “terminate”? CC’s “termination of transfers” BETA

This is a fun project I’ve been pushing inside CC which, thanks to endless work by our GC Mia Garlick and a Stanford student, Dana Powers, has now launched as a beta.

The background is this: US copyright law gives creators an inalienable right to terminate any “transfer” or assignment of copyright after 35 years. The idea was to give the creator a second bite at the apple, an idea that goes back to the first US copyright law.

The problem with the procedure is — surprise, surprise! — it is INSANELY complicated. It is almost as if — AS IF — it was designed not to be used.

So Creative Commons decided it would take a crack at making the system easier. We’ve developed a tool that will help an author determine whether or when an assignment is terminable. And our idea is to work with legal aid clinics around the country to refer likely terminators for final termination (it is an irresistible word for us Californians).

At this stage, the tool doesn’t refer you. And you should not use or rely on anything that comes from this BETA. But we’d be very eager for people to play around with it and give us feed back on the tool. When we’re really confident we’ve got all the logic right, and it’s clear enough, and when we’ve lined up volunteer projects around the country to represent authors whose transfers are to be terminated, we’ll launch the project.

Why is this a Creative Commons project? We’ve seen CC from the start as a tool to help creators manage an insanely complicated copyright system. When we have this running, we’ll offer any copyright owner who has reclaimed his or her rights the opportunity to distribute the work under a CC license. But that will be optional. Right now, we’re just offering the tool to make it simpler for authors to get what the copyright system was intended to give them.

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7 Responses to Are you ready to “terminate”? CC’s “termination of transfers” BETA

  1. James Day says:

    I wonder when the first of the copyright assignments to the FSF for GPL’d GNU software becomes terminable, and how many author’s executors and trustees will notice.

  2. Janet Hawtin says:

    Doesn’t this mean that for example, the share alike licence can not be trusted as it can be rescinded and make all derivative works infringing some time down the track? Perhaps this feature has not been used because it reduces trust in the licences on works and makes nothing safe for use. The commons becomes the beam of a followspot and anyone who does not keep up with it is a criminal?

  3. John S. says:

    This is similar to a project I did as an independent study last semester here at UNC. My site is up on my school’s library site:

    Yours seems cleaner and more complete, but double checking this kind of calculation may be nice. Also, mine might be a little more flexible in computing the notice window based on different exact termination dates, but I’m not certain. The preliminary questions that your site asks at the beginning are only presented to users at my site as a checklist.

    I agree that figuring out the logic to compute this stuff was not easy, as I had to read and re-read the statute many times and make sure my logic matched exactly. The second window was particularly tricky.

    My code (a few php scripts) is available on my site too, for anyone to verify or build upon, along with a flowchart I made to map out the logic. In addition, I have a paper that I will soon post on my site that I also completed as part of the independent study. It discusses application of terminations to open source and CC licenses and proposes a solution to the problem. I’ll try to get it on the site within a few days now that I have reminded myself to do it.

  4. IP says:

    The problem with the procedure is — surprise, surprise! — it is INSANELY complicated. It is almost as if — AS IF — it was designed not to be used.

  5. Dana Powers says:

    if only we could terminate comment spam…

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