from the shouldn't-these-works-all-be-in-the-public-domain? dept
A few years back, we noted the ongoing legal fight from some of John Steinbeck’s heirs seeking to regain control over the rights to some of his works via the termination provisions in US copyright law that we’ve talked about a lot recently, and which are going to get even more attention in the near future, as lots of classic works get close to hitting the point where they can be “terminated” and taken back by the artist (or their estate) from whomever the rights were assigned to.
It appears that the case is now over, with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case, meaning the heirs are unable to recover the works. The issue was that Steinbeck’s third wife apparently had worked out an agreement not to terminate, but Steinbeck’s son and grandson sought to get around that… and lost.
Of course, the whole thing really demonstrates the ridiculousness of such long copyrights. By any traditional measure, the works being fought over would be in the public domain by now (for a long, long time already), such that anyone could build off of them. It’s a sad state of affairs that people are still in court today arguing over a book from 1938, when the author himself is long dead. Ah, the “legacy” of copyright.