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While I think of it, there are a couple of interesting quirks to copyright assignment agreements under USA law.

WARNING: No citations. You may need to spend a couple of minutes with Google if you want to look it all up.Firstly, any copyright assigned by agreement or by contract, terminates after 35 years (if you or your heirs remember to do so), and again after 75 years. It cannot be made perpetual by any phrasing, wording or terms in the agreement. This is a bit complicated, however.

Secondly, if the contributor dies, the contributor’s heirs can undergo a (rather complicated) process and have the assigned rights terminated almost immediately. This is also complicated.

Thirdly, any copyright assigned by agreement or by contract can (with only one or two minor quirks, involving derived works) be terminated by the assigner at any time. USA law forbids irrevocable assignment. You cannot irrevocably assign copyright. You may always terminate at any time, regardless of any wording, terms or phrasing in any agreement or contract. This, is not complicated.

Here is a sample excerpt from a contribution agreement. Oh look! It’s from Linden Lab!

You hereby grant to Linden Lab, and to any party who receives Your Contribution, a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, no-charge, royalty-free, license under any patents owned by or licensable by You at any time without payment to third parties, to make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, import and otherwise transfer Your Contribution in whole or in part, alone or in combination with or included in any product, work or materials arising out of the SL Viewer Project, and to sublicense the foregoing rights to third parties through multiple tiers of sublicensees or other licensing mechanisms at Linden Lab’s option.

Source: Linden Lab. [Emphasis in bold is mine]

See? It says both “perpetual”, and “irrevocable”. The two things which, by USA law, it cannot actually be. Oh, there are ways to make copyright assignment perpetual and irrevocable… but to do that involves giving you money, among other things, and one of these agreements just won’t do it.

* Disclaimer: You should discuss things with your legal counsel before terminating any legal agreements, of course. You knew that already, right?



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