LGBT Chamber urges Rep. Sensenbrenner to support Copyright and Marriage Equality Act

MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce sent a letter today to Representative Jim Sensenbrenner to advocate for a change to the US Copyright Act so that all same-sex couples have the same right and opportunity to receive copyright ownership rights in the result of their partner’s death as married persons have.

"We understand the important role that copyright ownership laws play in protecting an individual’s intellectual property upon their death," said Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Rae. "We want to ensure that all same-sex couples are given an equal opportunity to inherit copyright ownership rights in order to protect their loved one’s hard work. While we wait for all states in the country to recognize marriage equality, H.R. 5617 will ensure that should someone die in a state that does not recognize marriage equality, but was legally married in a state that does, their copyright ownership rights will be protected."

In the letter, the Chamber asked the Congressman to support H.R. 5617, a bill that would change federal rights under the US Copyright Act from a place of residence rule to a place of celebration rule. The existing definition in the Copyright Act determines spousal status by the law of the author's domicile at death. The amendment proposes to change that definition to the state where the author was married. This would help protect an individual’s copyright ownership rights if they were to die in a state that does not currently recognize marriage equality.

"Copyright law has some special rights for creators' spouses that only come into effect upon death of the creator. This proposed change would allow all legally married same-sex spouses to receive those benefits, no matter where the creator lived," said Aurelia J. Schultz, attorney at Schultz Law, who focuses on copyright and trademark law. Schultz Law has been a member of the LGBT Chamber since 2013.

Representative Sensenbrenner serves as a member of the United States House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet where this bill is currently assigned.

"We hope that Congressman Sensenbrenner will urge his colleagues on the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property to take up this important measure, added Rae.

A copy of the letter can be found here.