You're a federal judge in the Southern District of New York. Through luck of the wheel,you are assigned an interesting dispute over termination rights in the works of a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning American author. Yet, you can't write to save your life. Here is Exhibit A, from the very beginning of the opinion in Steinbeck v. McIntosh & Otis, Inc., 2006 WL 1586547 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2006):
"Given the said length of copyright protection, early in which young creators often less than advantageously contract for long terms with publishers, etc., and it also being the way of the world that a number of such young composers, artists and authors, from time to time, such as John Steinbeck writing his first book in 1929, cannot predict the high stature they would attain, and the popular prominence of their works in musical and literary consciousness-not to mention the eventual high financial rewards to them and their families their work can command, our copyright laws have come to recognize this, and accordingly, in the statute, provide opportunities for such a creator and/or his or her family to terminate-and recapture-rights previously granted others, allowing creators or their heirs appropriate reward for the artistic gifts to our culture."
That, dear readers, is one sentence. The issues raised in the case are a precis of the confusing intersection of provisions governing "old Act" works, caught up in family feuds emanating from multiple marriages: wives against grandchildren, and grandchildren against grandchildren. Frankly, it is hard to give a damn as a character in another writer's novel put it, but the opinion is one those who labor in this dysfunctional garden should read.