As the 114th Congress begins on Capitol Hill today, the Authors Guild is lending its support to a bill that would close a loophole in the Copyright Act and ensure equal treatment for authors’ same-sex spouses. The bill, number S. 23, which has been introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is identical to the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act Senator Leahy introduced last November, which followed an earlier bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Derek Kilmer, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Jared Polis.
The nation’s current split between states that recognize same-sex marriage and those that don’t creates a double standard under the Copyright Act. The law grants rights to an author’s surviving spouse only if the marriage is recognized in the state where the author dies. But what if an author marries validly in Vermont but dies in Georgia, which does not currently recognize the marriage? There’s the rub: if an author enters a lawful same-sex marriage but moves to and dies in a state that doesn’t recognize the marriage, the author’s spouse may lose out—particularly, the surviving spouse would lose the statutory right to terminate book contracts after 35 years.
The proposed bill changes the law to consider only whether a couple is lawfully married—not whether the state an author lives in at the time of death recognizes that marriage.
“Not only does our copyright law give rights to authors,” said Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson, “it also provides for authors’ families, in recognition of the fact that many authors support their families through their work. We stand with Senator Leahy in his belief that the benefits of copyright law should not be affected by an author’s choice of a spouse, and we applaud his efforts to see that the law treats all authors equally.”
The Guild will be following the bill’s progress throughout this congressional session, and we’ll keep you informed of any significant developments.