The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of recapture rights under copyright law, as well as a primer on the difference between common law and community property law as it relates to property rights in a divorce proceeding. The paper will utilize as a case study the dispute between William “Smokey” Robinson and his former spouse, Claudette Robinson, and provide a statutory solution for future disputes where federal copyright law and state community property laws collide at the intersection of copyright terminations. Specifically, should these newly recaptured rights be treated as a new estate and thus not governed by the initial divorce decree, or should they be viewed as a continuation of the rights that were properly dispersed under the initial divorce? Finally, I will argue that Congress should include specific language in the next copyright act that codifies the law with regard to beneficial ownership of copyright granted to ex-spouses under the terms of a marital dissolution.
100 Marq. L. Rev. 101 (2017)