Copyright keeps out-of-print books unavailable to the public, and commentators speculate that statutes transferring rights back to authors would provide incentives for the republication of books from unexploited back catalogs. This study compares the availability of books whose copyrights are eligible for statutory reversion under US law with books whose copyrights are still exercised by the original publisher. It finds that 17 USC § 203, which permits reversion to authors in year 35 after publication, and 17 USC § 304, which permits reversion 56 years after publication, significantly increase in-print status for important classes of books. Several reasons are offered as to why the § 203 effect seems stronger. The 2002 decision in Random House v. Rosetta Books, which worked a one-time de facto reversion of ebook rights to authors, has an even greater effect on in-print status than the statutory schemes.

Paul Heald, the Richard W. and Marie L. Corman Professor of Law, joined the Illinois faculty in 2011 after 22 years at the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was the youngest faculty member in the law school’s history to be named to a chaired position. He is also a fellow and associated researcher at CREATe, the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow. Heald lectures on patent, copyright and international intellectual property law around the world and has previously held visiting positions at universities in Buenos Aires, Bournemouth, London, Lyon, Regensburg, and at the University of Chicago, University of Texas, and Vanderbilt University. He also ran the UGA/OSU program at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, during the spring of 2009. He was Herbert Smith Visitor at Cambridge University in 2012.


TC Beirne School of Law
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The University of Queensland
Sir Harry Gibbs Moot Court (W247)