Will’s will

I’d never really given any thought to the question of the bequeathing of copyrights. But obviously authors can choose anybody — human body or corporate body — to be the recipient of a post-mortem copyright assignment. And that can cause problems: as this piece from Angela Hoy at WritersWeekly explains, recipients can often be reluctant to receive such gifts. (Link via The Digital Reader.) I guess there’s a big difference in your enthusiasm if you get given a book selling millions a year as against one struggling to offload twenty copies annually — and inheriting the rights to a boring book may carry with them an obligation to keep it available. When you write your will consider the possibility that your long-cherished Bildungsroman may in fact turn out to be a loser rather than a Wilhelm Meister, and cut your legatee some slack so that they don’t have to feel that they are legally bound to “do their best” by your lucubrations. And if you decide to pass on the copyright to your alma mater or some other institution like the local dog’s home, do consult them first.

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