Legislative Note

Legislative Note

by Jerry Glover
September 19, 2014

The US Copyright Act does not allow a person in a same sex marriage to inherit any copyrights held by his/her deceased spouse. Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to change that with the introduction of the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act.

Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are jointly sponsoring this bill. This proposed legislation follows in the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court decision inUnited States v. Windsor, which struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act. Following this decision, the Obama administration began providing federal benefits to same-gender spouses receiving federal benefits even if  they live in states that do not recognize same gender marriages including same gender marriages performed in other states which do permit them.

Still, there are some federal agencies that do not recognize same gender marriages performed in a state that permits them but the spouses now live in a state that does not. Currently a widow or widower of a copyright holder in a same-gender marriage may lose access to a surviving spouse’s rights under the Copyright Act if they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. This proposed legislation would require the Copyright Office to recognize the inheritance rights of same-sex couples.

The legislation is endorsed by the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and the Writers Guild, West.

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