When Rightholders Die

26 June 2009

Yesterday and today, the internet’s abuzz with the unfolding story of Michael Jackson’s death.  Of course we at Ip’s What’s Up have no news to add about what happened; what we have are some IP related questions.

At one point Michael Jackson owned a large amount of the Beatles’ catalogue.  How much of it does he still own?  Or rather, how much of it remained and is now part of his estate?  What will happen to the rights previously held by Jackson?  Does Sir Paul have a chance to recover the rights?

There are a variety of intellectual property issues related to estates.  Intellectual property is property, and the rights given under the IP laws (with some exceptions) can be transferred just as any other property, including through trusts, through a Will or through an estate sale.  However, intellectual property also brings with it some interesting caveats.  Depending on the jurisdiction and when the work was created, rights may return to the original owner (the creator or his heirs) upon someone’s death.  Death also affects how long the rights will be valid as most copyright regimes begin counting the life of a copyright from the death of the creator.

Ip’s What’s Up will continue to report as we attempt to find out more about what’s left of Michael Jackson’s Beatles collection and what’s going to happen to it.


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