The fight over who owns the Philadelphia Phillies’ mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, has highlighted a provision in the copyright law that allows the original creator to reclaim rights decades after they’ve signed them away. The team is in a copyright licensing battle with Harrison/Erickson Inc., a design and marketing company that sold the rights to their Phillie Phanatic costume in 1978. The deal was renegotiated in 1984. More recently, the designers used the Copyright Act provision to make a reclaim bid, which lets creators reacquire their work up to 35 years later, regardless of previous contracts.
Only since 2013 have artists been able to reclaim rights, and it is rare to see a copyright’s value skyrocket after a sale. This means that there isn’t much in the way of case law that interprets the provision.