Bill Would Change Copyright Law to Protect Gay Couples

A bill has been reintroduced that its backers say will ensure that married couples get equal treatment under the Copyright Act.

The Copyright Act grants rights to a surviving spouse only if the marriage is recognized in the owner's state of residence at the time of death. The bill would change that to grant those rights even when a death occurs in states that do not recognize gay marriage, so long as the marriage was held in a state that does.

The bill was reintroduced last week in the House by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and in the Senate by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

“The Copyright Act should treat all families equally,” said Kilmer in a statement. “For more than 100 years, the Copyright Act has ensured that someone who owns the rights to an original work can pass them on to their next of kin. Artists inspire and entertain us and they should be able to share the proceeds of what they create with all members of their families."

The Motion Picture Association of America agrees. "We believe that copyright law should treat all marriages equally, and we support this bill,” said MPAA chairman and former senator Chris Dodd, according to Kilmer's office.

According to Kilmer's office, also providing their support for the bill are the American Civil Liberties Union, Directors Guild of America, Human Rights Campaign, SAG-AFTRA, and Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).

Christopher Wood, executive director of the LGBT Technology Partnership. has praised the bill as "a clarification of the Copyright Act to bring the law in line with the new reality of marriage equality in the United States."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.