Reversion of Copyright in Europe. A European Intellectual Property Review triple bill
This working paper is a joint re-issue of three articles first published in a special section of the European Intellectual Property Review concerning reversion rights in Europe, in May 2021 (vol 43 issue 5). The contributions hope to shape the debate on the revocation rights, and the unique opportunities those rights provide for creators.
First, an opinion by Martin Kretschmer and Rebecca Giblin names reversion rights one of the most promising ideas for re-imagining copyright law, within the current boundaries. The opinion introduces an Open Letter signed by a group of leading academics, calling upon the European Commission and the relevant authorities of EU Member States to take the “right of revocation” under Article 22 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market seriously as a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision.
Secondly, an article by Ula Furgał presents the results of a comprehensive mapping of rights reversion provisions in EU Member States, including provisions that are no longer in force. Furgał shows that European jurisdictions tend to prefer use-based to time-based “triggers” (such as a termination right after a specific number of years). She also argues that there is a lack of understanding what sufficient exploitation means in the digital context.
Thirdly, an article by Elena Cooper offers a distinct historical perspective, uncovering the legislative history of reversion in the UK Copyright Act 1911, which also applied to the British Empire (including Ireland, Malta and Cyprus). Cooper shows that the common law tradition of freedom of contract is compatible with constraints on contractual transfers, and that UK reversion provisions historically were a direct response to the significant increase in the copyright term in 1911.