Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Eva E. Subotnik, St. John's University School of Law, is publishing Artistic Control After Death in volume 92 of the Washington Law Review (2017). Here is the abstract.
To what extent should authors be able to control what happens to their literary, artistic, and musical creations after they die? Looked at through the lens of a number of succession law trends, the evidence might suggest that strong control is warranted. The decline of the Rule Against Perpetuities and rise of incentive trusts portray a tightening grip of the dead hand. And yet, an unconstrained ability of the dead to determine future uses of works of literature, art, and music is a fundamentally troubling notion. This article evaluates instructions given with respect to authorial works against the backdrop of the laws and policies that govern bequests more generally. In particular, it considers the enforceability of attempted artistic control through the imposition of a fiduciary duty. In balancing the competing interests, this article considers the demands of both state trust laws and federal copyright policy. In the end, the article argues that authorial instructions must yield to the needs of the living. Such a view requires that, to the greatest extent possible, some living person(s) be authorized to decide how works of authorship are used — even if that means overriding artistic control by the dead.Download the article from SSRN at the link.