Editor's Note: This Essay is the first in a four-part series on United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court decision that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last summer.
Copyright law typically is not thought of as intertwined with family law. Still, a major theoretical underpinning of copyright’s incentive system is that an author is motivated not only by the financial reward she hopes to reap during her life, but also by whatever her family might reap long after her death. And the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in United States v. Windsor complicates this family-incentive theory by undermining Congress’s belief that an author would want her widow to inherit her rights. Instead, it creates a situation in which federal law and state law too often will recognize different heirs.