While the Terminator is now one of the most recognizable film characters, this success was hard to predict when the first film in the Terminator franchise was being produced. Thus, James Cameron is reported to have sold his rights to the Terminator to the producer Gale Anne Hurd for a single dollar on the condition that he will be the director of the film. James Cameron left the franchise after directing the first two films and was no longer able to directly influence the creation of the sequel films, having no rights to the franchise, which some say negatively impacted the quality of the later Terminator movies.
Not all hope is lost for the fans of the original two Terminator movies. Under U.S. copyright law, unless a work was made for hire, such as by an employee in the scope of his or her employment, an author of the work can, appropriately enough, terminate an earlier grant of rights to the work after a certain number of years (35-40 years, depending on whether the right to publication was included in the grant). The time for James Cameron to terminate the grant of rights to the franchise that he made back in the 1980s is coming up in 2019. If Mr. Cameron chooses to exercise his right and take control of the future production, then the Terminator may indeed be back.
The popular song, “Happy Birthday To You,” was first copyrighted in 1935 by the Summy Company (“Summy”). Years later, in 1988, Warner/Chappell Music (“Warner”) purchased the company owning the copyright. Warner required that royalties be paid for public performances of the song and claimed that the copyright, which represented an estimated $2M to $5M in royalties annually, did not expire until 2030. Warner wanted to charge Jennifer Nelson, an independent filmmaker, $1500 for using the song in a documentary. She filed suit and, on September 22, 2015, in Rupa Marya v. Warner Chappell Music Inc., Case No. CV 13-4460-GHK (S.D. Cal.), federal Judge George H. King ruled that Warner’s copyright to “Happy Birthday to You” was invalid, as the alleged original authors of the song had never asserted a claim for the lyrics, though they did sue for rights to the original melody. As such, Summy never legally obtained the rights to the lyrics from the authors and therefore Warner’s copyright was invalid.
The Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures (RESPECT) Act, introduced as House Resolution 4772 on May 29, 2014, would require digital music services to pay royalties for sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972. Ironically, although Thomas Edison patented the mechanical phonograph cylinder as the first practical sound recording and reproduction device in 1878, the protection of sound recordings was governed only by state statutory and common law until 1972, when Congress passed the Sound Recording Amendment to the 1909 Copyright Act, which finally made sound recordings eligible for federal copyright protection. The RESPECT Act seeks to close a loophole in current copyright law that excepts digital music services that transmit or stream music by Internet radio, cable, or satellite, such as Sirius XM Radio, from having to pay performance royalties for pre-1972 sound recordings. The RESPECT Act does not confer federal copyright protection upon such sound recordings. If the law passes, legacy artists from the formative days of Rock-n-Roll, performers behind the Motown Sound, ‘60s folk and psychedelic rockers, and others, will be entitled to payment of royalties under federal statutory licensing requirements.