An Executor‘s duties consist in part of gathering all of the assets of an estate. Most of you probably know this. What you may not know is that part of doing that can consist of reclaiming copyrights that the deceased previously assigned to someone else.
In 1976, Congress was concerned that artists were being taken advantage of and assigning the copyrights to their original works for far less than the copyrights were actually worth. In contrast to many things Congress does, there was actually good evidence that their concern was well-founded. What Congress did was to make it so that creators of a copyrighted work that had been assigned to someone else could later reclaim that rights. However, reclaiming a copyright has to be done at a particular time that depends on a few factors, such as whether the right of publication was also given with the copyright.
If a reclaimed copyright could be of value to an estate, then an Executor has a duty to reclaim it. However, Executors cannot be expected to know how and when to make the claims. For that, they should seek out the advice of attorneys to make sure that everything is done properly and at the right time.
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