Abstract: When authors assign the copyright in their work to publishers, some productive uses of the work are impeded. The author loses opportunities to use or to authorize others to use the work unless the publisher consents; the publisher does not permit all uses of the work that the author would like or that would benefit a consuming audience. Copyright easements can solve the problem.
Under a system of copyright easements, an easement holder would have designated rights in a creative work that would permit uses of the work that would ordinarily require permission of the copyright owner. If the author later assigns the copyright to a publisher, the copyright is held subject to the rights of the easement holder. The easement thus ties the author’s own hands: the author can no longer assign an unfettered copyright — and the publisher can no longer ask for it — because of the existence of the easement holder’s interests in the work.
Copyright easements can protect the ability of authors, after they assign the copyright, and of others, to make productive uses of works in ways that are unlikely to affect the publisher’s economic interests. Copyright easements can also ensure that uses of works that do not require a copyright owner’s permission but which publishers frequently seek to prevent, such as fair uses, could occur more easily. Copyright easements thus benefit authors and the public alike. These benefits can be easily and immediately produced without any change to the Copyright Act.
Citation: Mazzone, Jason, Copyright Easements (August 21, 2017). Akron Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2017.
Full paper on SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3023425