Creative assets can be a valuable part of many estates. You don't have to be a famous author or actor to have creative assets. Someone who has published minor works, created trademarked designs for a business or invented something could own creative assets that generate some amount of income in an ongoing manner. Including those assets during estate planning lets you protect them for your heirs, building a legacy for your family that could stretch through several generations.
Legacies have to be protected, though, which means heirs must understand estate administration and what their rights are to creative assets and associated money. News media often covers stories about heirs to singers or writers seeking compensation because someone else used material belonging to the estate. Even if you aren't heir to a creative fortune, enforcing your rights to works and materials could mean a healthy income through the years.
Protecting creative rights can be a complex endeavor, though, and not every case is clear cut. One group of heirs recently filed a lawsuit because they believed a Broadway musical infringed upon copyrighted material within their control. The judge in the case disagreed.
The case involved the heirs of the Abbott and Costello body of work. The heirs asserted that a Broadway show, “Hand of God,” used the heart of the famous “Who's on First?” piece. The judge ruled that the use of the material was not copyright infringement because only a small part was used by a single character in the show, and it was paraphrased in a manner that created a new work.
While the heirs in this situation didn't win their case, they are looking out to protect the family legacy. Working through the legal system in such a manner can create a more concrete legacy that will be passed down through generations.
Source: Lake Placid News, “Broadway play wins lawsuit over heirs to ‘Who's on First',” Dec. 17, 2015