On July 1, 2020, Dunnington partner Ray Dowd will present a Federal Bar Association webinar “Lessons From John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: Copyright Terminations Under Section 203 and 304 of the Copyright Act.” The webinar will discuss Steinbeck v. Kaffaga, a case in which a petition for certiorari is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dunnington partners Ray Dowd and Olivera Medenica authored a brief in support of the petition on behalf of amici curiae the Authors Guild, the Dramatists Guild, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and former Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman.
In 1909 Congress extended the 28-year term of copyright by a renewal term of 28-years. Congress intended the 28-year renewal term to be inalienable and to benefit authors. In the 1940’s the Supreme Court frustrated Congress’ intent by permitting authors to sign away their rights to the renewal term to publishers. In 1976 and again in 1998, Congress extended the term of copyright, again intending to create an inalienable estate in the extended term in authors and their heirs. Unfortunately, the courts have once again interpreted the Copyright Act in a way to frustrate the rights of authors and their heirs in the extended copyright term.
Copyright terminations are a very hot litigation topic and affect thousands of copyrights and authors’ heirs. In the July 1 webinar, Dowd will discuss the history and background of the provisions of the Copyright Act that were intended to protect authors and their heirs, will discuss the latest case developments and will offer some practical tips for attorneys advising on copyright terminations.
Dowd is the author of Copyright Litigation Handbook, published annually by Thomson Reuters (available on Westlaw). He is a partner at Dunnington Bartholow & Miller LLP in New York City and an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School. He formerly served as General Counsel of the Federal Bar Association.