Congressman Derek Kilmer

Representing the 6th District of Washington
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Kilmer Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Fully Protect Copyright Access for all Married Couples

Sep 18, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06), IIena Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), and Jared Polis (CO-02) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure same-sex couples have equal rights under the Copyright Act. The Copyright and Marriage Equality Act would update the Copyright Act to ensure that when a copyright holder in a same-sex marriage dies, their rights to original works are passed along to the surviving spouse along with other kin.

“When a spouse loses the person they love, they should not bear the burden of fighting for benefits they rightfully deserve,” said Kilmer. “For more than 100  years, the Copyright Act has ensured that someone who owns the rights to an original work will see those rights pass along to their next of kin. The bipartisan bill I’m introducing will ensure that all married same-sex couples have access to these rights and are not discriminated against.”

“I’d like to thank my colleague, Representative Kilmer, for his leadership in putting together a bill that ensures fair treatment for the spouses of copyright holders,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “They should not be disenfranchised on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. All married couples should be secure in the knowledge that one person’s copyright and its benefits will not be lost due to an out of date regulation. We should continue to work toward the day when all Americans are treated equally.”

Congress created the Copyright Act to fully protect the rights of copyright holders, including transferring those rights to the next of kin following the original owner’s death. But currently, a widow or widower of a copyright holder in a same-sex marriage may lose access to a surviving spouse’s rights under the Copyright Act if they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, federal agencies have revised interpretations of federal statutes to ensure that married same-sex couples are not being denied federal benefits. In some instances like the Copyright Act, Congressional action is needed to ensure same-sex married couples are not discriminated against.

The legislation is also supported by the Human Rights Campaign, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), Writers Guild of America, West, and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

“More than a year after the Supreme Court struck down the core of DOMA, it’s clear there are still gaps in federal law for married same-sex couples,” said Ian S. Thompson, ACLU’s Legislative Representative. “Rep. Kilmer’s bill will ensure that copyright protections stay with the widow or widower of the deceased, regardless of where in the country the couple lived. Married couples should not be treated like strangers under the law simply because the state in which they reside disrespects their marriage.”

"Strong copyright laws are fundamental to a vital creative culture and the encouragement of creative efforts," said SAG-AFTRA Chief Deputy General Counsel Jeffrey P. Bennett. “Ensuring that married same sex couples will be treated equally to all other married couples with respect to copyright and creative rights ownership is an issue of fundamental fairness. We applaud Representative Kilmer and his co-sponsors Representatives IIena Ros-Lehtinen and Jared Polis, for their leadership on this issue."

“Legally married same-sex couples deserve the same federal rights, legal protections, and benefits, no matter what state they live in,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director for the Human Rights Campaign. “We applaud Representatives Kilmer, Ros-Lehtinen, and Polis for their leadership in working to correct this injustice.”

 

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