Friday, June 21, 2013

Copyright, Descendible Property, and Anne Frank

Copyright is property, the owner of which can transfer it by will. In other words, you could inherit the copyrights in the paintings of your great great uncle Van Gogh, even though Uncle Van Gogh may bequeath the actual paintings to Cousin Mildred. The rights can also be transferred to an entity, like a nonprofit or a corporation.

This can present problems (both legal and emotional) when the new copyright owner licenses the works in a way someone else (e.g., a family member) does not like. For example, if you authorize Company A to market their guns and cigarettes using Uncle Van Gogh's paintings, Cousin Mildred may be devastated, but there may not be much she can do about it.

Such are the issues with the estate of Anne Frank and her diary. For years, parties have been fighting over her legacy through copyright litigation and other legal disputes, and the issue has arisen again. For a brief history, check out the following stories:
To aid your artist-clients, check out Art Law: The Guide for Collectors, Investors, Dealers, & Artists.