a single man with no children died. he has living parents and siblings. are the rights to something he wrote passed on to family or if someone else possesses some of his writings does that person own those?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Your question is unclear whether you are referring to intangible copyrights or tangible copies. Copies and copyrights are two different things. For example, the author of a book continues to own the copyright even after selling books, but the owner of the books cannot be deprived of ownership by the passing of the copyright. This is set out in what has become known as the "first sale doctrine" (which is a misnomer in that no "sale" is necessary), and codified in two separate sections of the Copyright Act. Section 202 states the distinction between copies and copyrights. Section 109(a) notes that the owner of a non-infringing copy is entitled to dispose of it without the consent of the copyright owner. In short, the heirs of the copyright owner can receive the copyright, and the heirs of the copy owners can inherit the copies. (You said someone else "possesses" them. Note that Section 109 applies to the owner, and not merely a possessor.)