On January 6, 2015, Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced Senate bill 23 entitled the “Copyright and Marriage Equality Act.” The bill would amend Section 101 of title 17 of the United States Code by striking the current definitions of “widow” and “widower” and replacing them with the following:
"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 had later remarried."
The purpose of the amendment is to address the transfer of a copyright to an author’s spouse or other next of kin following the author’s death. There were five original cosponsors of the bill.
On January 9, 2015, Rep. Derek Kilmer introduced in the House a corresponding bill, H.R. 238. That bill had 19 original cosponsors.
Both bills have been referred to their respective Committees on the Judiciary. We will keep you posted on the status of any action on each bill.