Senator Leahy Reintroduces Bill to Ensure Equal Treatment For All Spouses Under The Copyright Act

Copyright And Marriage Equality Act ensures equal protection for all artists and their families

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday joined with Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) to reintroduce legislation that would close a loophole in the Copyright Act that discriminates among lawfully married couples. Today’s bill introduction comes as Florida becomes the 36th state to allow all couples to marry.

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 Georgia, Tennessee, or one of the other states that do not currently recognize their lawful marriage. The Copyright and Marriage Equality Act 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.

“Artists are part of the creative lifeblood of our Nation, and our laws should protect their families equally,” Leahy said. “On the issue of marriage equality, the arc of history is at long last bending towards justice, so that all Americans one day will be free to marry the one they love. Statutes like the Copyright Act are no place for inequality in our country. I urge the Senate to take up and pass this important piece of legislation.”

Leahy introduced the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act last year, and published an op-ed on the legislation in The Hollywood Reporter.  Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) worked with Representatives IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to introduce the measure in the House last year, and they are expected to reintroduce the bipartisan legislation soon.

A copy of the bill is available online.


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