Leahy Introduces Bill to Ensure Equal Treatment for All Spouses Under the Copyright Act

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, November 12, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday introduced legislation to close a loophole in the Copyright Act that discriminates among lawfully married couples. A provision in the Copyright Act grants rights to the surviving spouse of a copyright owner only if the marriage is recognized in the owner’s state of residence at the time he or she dies. This means that a writer who lawfully marries his or her same-sex partner in Vermont or California is not a “spouse” under the Copyright Act if they move to Florida, Georgia, or one of the other states that do not currently recognize their lawful marriage.

“Artists are the creative lifeblood of our Nation, and our laws should protect their families equally,” Leahy said.  “It is wrong for the federal government to deny benefits or privileges to couples who have lawfully wed. Statutes like the Copyright Act, or laws governing the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs which also contain remnants of discrimination, are no place for inequality in our country. It is time to fix these outdated laws once and for all.”

The Copyright and Marriage Equality Act, a version of which was introduced in the House by bipartisan Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), amends the Copyright Act to consider simply whether a couple is lawfully married—not where a married couple happens to live when the copyright owner dies. It will ensure that the rights attached to the works of our nation’s gay and lesbian authors, musicians, painters, photographers, and other creators pass to their widows and widowers.

Leahy published an op-ed announcing introduction of the bill in The Hollywood Reporter this week.  A copy of the bill is available online.

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