Preserve and extend author-friendly rules about copyright ownership.

Copyright law should continue to protect our interests as authors by requiring, for instance, that an exclusive license or assignment be in writing and signed by the author in order to be effective. The law should clarify the narrow set of circumstances under which those who employ authors can claim initial ownership of the author’s work under the “work made for hire” doctrine. To protect academic freedom and the integrity of academic work, educators should have rights in their own research and teaching materials.

Recognize our interests in being attributed as authors of our works.

The law should recognize the right of authors to be acknowledged as creators of our works. This is especially important for those of us who create in order to contribute to knowledge and culture. Attribution serves not only our interests as authors, but also the reading public’s interest in knowing whose works they are consuming and society’s interest in an accurate record of the intellectual heritage of humankind.

Simplify authors’ rights to terminate transfers.

Under current law, authors can reclaim their copyrights by terminating licenses or assignments after 35–40 years. These termination rules are too complicated and formalistic. The rules should be simplified so that public-regarding authors can reclaim rights in our works. This is especially important when works are out of print or otherwise inaccessible, so that we can make them available again.

Make it easy for us to dedicate our works to the public domain.

It used to be easy to dedicate our works to the public domain, that is, the realm of works not subject to copyright restriction. Until 1989, we could publish our works without a copyright notice and they automatically entered the public domain. A benefit of the public domain is that it maximizes the potential for our works to be accessible and reused. Current law does not clearly provide a mechanism for authors to contribute their works directly to the public domain. The next copyright act should ensure that public domain dedication is available to those authors who want to do so.

Make copyright law more comprehensible.

Copyright law today is too long and too complex. It often employs terminology that only experts can understand. Ordinary authors should be able to read it, understand it, and comply with its norms without difficulty. Furthermore, before we enter into agreements with publishers, employers, or other people or institutions regarding the use of our works, we should understand what rights we are giving up and what rights we are retaining. This is difficult under current law.

Return to the principles.