Keep Your Copyrights: helping creators beat abusive contracts

My pal Tim Wu, a copyfighting attorney and law prof, is working on a new project to help authors retain control over their copyrights instead of assigning them to publishers, academic institutions, and other organizations, to stop copyrights from piling up into huge stockpiles controlled by greedy dinosaurs like the RIAA.
Many of the problems of the copyright system come from copyright in the wrong hands. When copyrights get accumulated into large stockpiles, bad things often happen, things that often aren't in the interests of authors.

Too often authors and other creators end up giving away their copyrights when they don't need to. The point of our site,, is to educate lawyers and non-lawyers on what to expect. We have collected actual contracts with dangerous language to teach people what to look out for.

Link (Thanks, Tim!)



  1. How is an academic institution, like a university press, in anyway a “greedy dinosaur like the RIAA”? They are not-for-profits and they are staffed by people who really care about what they do. So much that they are paid on average half of what their commercial peers are being paid. They always give permission for educational use, and seldom charge for it. Seriously, educate yourself and temper your rhetoric. If you want to pick on the RIAA or the MPAA you’ve got a case, but you’re just wrong about this. Scholarship doesn’t vet, edit, design, and distribute itself. Until it does, (and it just may someday) it will probably need to involve commerce. But that doesn’t equate it with the RIAA.

  2. How is a university like the MPAA? Well, for example, when USC non-negotiably acquires a 100% copyright interest in all student films through a mandatory copyright assignment that is a prerequisite for receiving a degree, it is like the MPAA.

  3. One department at one institution. And for that you smear the work of so many others? Not just university presses but their libraries too? All working to not only reform copyright and fair use, but to advance knowledge and disseminate scholarship.

    Focus on the problem. Don’t paint with a roller when a finer brush will do. If one member of a group commits a crime, that doesn’t make every member of that group a criminal. University presses and libraries do the bulk of the work involving copyright at academic institutions, not student film makers. Yes that’s wrong of USC, but it doesn’t justify such a broad statement smearing the work of so many others.

    And how does what Wu’s working on in anyway reform what’s happening at USC? University presses, on the other hand, already allow authors to retain copyright. We do it all the time. We ask for it as a matter of practice so we can keep the scholarship available after the death of the author, if that’s important to them. If they don’t assign it to us and their heirs are indifferent or hostile, it could and does disappear.

  4. Here’s yet another radical idea.

    Copyrights and patents aren’t property and therefore can’t be transferred. They remain with the author or inventor until they expire.

    The author or inventor can license usage to others, but that’s not giving them total control.

  5. Toekneesan, what on earth makes you think that I’m talking about the kind of academic presses that allow authors to retain their copyright? That’s a pretty silly reading of this post — clearly, you wouldn’t need Keep Your Copyrights to help you negotiate a contract with such a press.

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