Content is still king and the library, or kingdom of available content is growing by way of original and licensed content. Creators, creatives, owners, studios, and streamers, come one, come all. Copyright termination notices are available to provide terrific opportunities to renegotiate exisiting licensing deals or enter into new relationships. Needless to say, dealmaking opportunities abound.
Pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Act:
“The Copyright Act permits authors or their heirs, under certain circumstances, to terminate the exclusive or nonexclusive grant of a transfer or license of an author’s copyright in a work or of any right under a copyright. These termination provisions are set forth in 17 U.S.C. §§ 203, 304(c), and 304(d), with the applicable provision depending on a number of factors, including when the grant was made, who executed it, and when copyright was originally secured for the work. These provisions are intended to protect authors and their heirs against unremunerative agreements by giving them an opportunity to share in the later economic success of their works by allowing authors or their heirs, during particular periods of time long after the original grant, to regain the previously granted copyright or copyright rights. Note that grants made via a will or involving a work made for hire may not be terminated under these provisions (for more information about works made for hire, refer to Circular 9).
To terminate a grant, a written, signed notice of termination must be served on the relevant grantee (i.e., the individual or entity that received the grant that is being terminated) or the grantee’s successor-in-interest and a copy of the as-served notice must be properly recorded with the Copyright Office. For more information about notices of termination, including their required form and content, see 17 U.S.C. §§ 203, 304(c), or 304(d) as applicable, 37 C.F.R. § 201.10, and the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices (Chapter 2300: Recordation).”
What does this mean? First, it is impossible to know where each private contract licensing deal stands. Second, we do not know whether copyright owners will issue termination notices. Those two situations provide for uncertainty in the marketplace.
1. Know your rights
Despite an uncertain marketplace because we do not know the terms of existing deals or interest for entering into new deals, it is important to know that as a copyright owner you have the right to issue a termination notice during a specified time to establish a renewed economic benefit for the owner and/or their heirs and assigns. Despite the uncertainty, the market for new content lends one to believe that copyright owners will exercise their rights and multiple buyers will be waiting.
2. Streamers gaining more content
Assuming the above, copyright termination notices will create an additional marketplace for streamers to gain content for their distribution platforms. With so many new streamers entering the space in 2019-2020, one can imagine there will be a bidding process in an effort to gain more subscribers. Adding content will do just that.
3. New studios getting opportunities to grow their libraries
Some studios are or have entered the streaming space so part two above applies to content strategy. However, studios still have traditional distribution options through linear television and licensing their content to streamers. Therefore, it is easy to see that studios will also be in the marketplace for buying more content to gain viewers and dollars.
Either way, where content is king, its kingdom is growing and many stand to benefit.