On Piers Anthony's site, he had up his February newsletter (which might be gone by the time you read this), but I'll leave the link anyway.
Legal crap, oh boring. ::yawn::
Except this is actually interesting.
This is an exact quote of what's in Mr. Anthony's newsletter:
Meanwhile, of interest to other writers: Congress changed the law, and now publishers can't hang on to an author's rights until 70 years after s/he dies. The new Copyright Act allows authors and their heirs to terminate contracts 35 years after the contract date and "recapture" the books, regardless whether they remain in print, beginning with contracts dated 1978...Other writers should check this out, because their publishers will not tell them. Publishers are anal-retentive by nature.This is huge, especially for writers who have older works. They can now self publish their backlist; some authors are already doing this.
The thing is, I agree with Mr. Anthony in that I think authors have to keep track as to when their books can be recovered, because the publishers ain't gonna do that.
Of course, those writers with backlists going that far back might be freaked out at the thought of attempting to format/reformat and upload to Kindle and/or Nook...