Senators Try to Straighten Out Copyright Act to Protect Same-Sex Spouses

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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and several of his fellow Democrats have reintroduced a bill that would close a loophole in the Copyright Act that prevents a surviving same-sex spouse from content ownership if they reside in a state that does not recognize gay marriages.

In its current form, the Copyright Act only allows rights to revert to a widow or widower if they live in a state where gay marriages are legal. That means if an artist, musician or writer gets married in Iowa, which has marriage equality, and then moves to Texas, which does not, their legal spouse won't retain that copyrighted material when he or she dies.


"Artists are part of the creative lifeblood of our Nation, and our laws should protect their families equally," Leahy said in a statement. "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, who is now the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, first introduced the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act last year. This week Leahy was joined by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in reintroducing the legislation. Read the bill below:

An individual is the 'widow' or 'widower' of an author if the courts of the State in which the individual and the author were married (or, if the individual and the author were not married in any State but were validly married in another jurisdiction, the courts of any State) would find that the individual and the author were validly married at the time of the author's death, whether or not the spouse has later remarried.'

With Republicans in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the future of Leahy's legislation remains uncertain. In a bid to inspire bipartisanship in the 114th Congress (the 113th was possibly the second least productive ever), Leahy's chumminess was invoked in a speech on Wednesday by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the minority whip. In his remarks, Durbin recalled an afternoon in the Senate lunchroom in which Leahy was able to get his friend Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (Leahy's a known Deadhead) and the decidedly un-liberal Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) to hang out. Watch: