Let’s start the new year by talking about our wills.
Now, now. Don’t give me that look. I am reliably informed that we’ve all got to go sometime. And we’re all leaving a lot of detritus behind us that we owe the courtesy of helping to clean up. In the last few years, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when one does and when one doesn’t leave a will. You’re being unkind to your next of kin if you don’t.
But whatever you decide to do about Great Aunt Nellie’s smoked-glass candy dish, let’s focus on what we creative types might do with our intellectual property rights. It is my understanding (lawyers, jump in and correct me if necessary) that IP rights don’t automatically accompany an estate. So all those poems and songs you wrote? The novel you self-published? The twenty years worth of plays you wrote for the local theater? If you don’t specify in your will who gets the rights to those, no one gets them.
Copyright law, at present (until The Mouse gets it extended yet again), says a creative work is copyrighted at the moment of creation and for seventy years after the creator’s death (longer in some cases). For seventy years, no one has the right to use or republish your work. How well-remembered do you expect to be after seven decades?
People who earned their daily bread and fed their families with their creative works have not given thought to this dilemma. Back in October 2006, Neil Gaiman wrote with a heavy heart about his friend John M. Ford, an author of no small note, who had died without making final arrangements for his literary estate. And another writer whose not-quite-ex-wife ended up with his copyrights, to everyone’s detriment. Gaiman and a lawyer friend offer a short and sweet solution in that post, so go check it out.
I’m a little past a half century. I’m hoping for another thirty years or so, but I’m working on documenting things like I’ve got until late next week. Just to be polite. It’s pretty easy, really, except for what to do with my little literary estate, most of which can be found on this site. It isn’t much, but I’m fairly proud of what I have done. I had once thought of just releasing the copyrights upon my death, but I’m not so sure about that now. On the off chance that something I’ve done could, in fact, become popular, why should some schmuck I never knew get comfortably well off from it? But I doubt that any of my relatives would want to fuss with my writing. So I’m a bit stuck at the moment.
So, to the comments! What provisions have you made for your literary estate?