Assignment of Copyright
An assignment of copyright (sometimes referred to as a sales agreement for copyright, the sale of copyright, or a bill of sale for copyright) is an agreement whereby the owner of the copyright of the work transfers his ownership to another.
Generally speaking, the buyer (assignee) can do with the work as he pleases: destroy it, license others to use it, make money from it in any way and on-sell the rights to another party.
To be valid, an assignment of copyright (see our free legal form lower down on this page) must be in writing, signed by or on behalf of the assignor (i.e. owner). It must be clear about the subject of the assignment; i.e. what copyright in which work is being assigned.
Remember that one work may have many copyrights. For example, a movie will (or may) have literary, music, cinematography, photographic, broadcast, choreographic (etc.) rights. Whilst an out and out assignment will cover all such rights, it is possible to separate out what is to be assigned. The same applies for different countries.
N.B. - Please refer to our main Copyright page for more information on copyright law, infringement and more related free legal forms.
As the owner of copyright in a work considering assignment you should assess whether licensing your copyright is not a better option. In this case you retain ownership, and only license certain rights to another party.
You will be well advised to consult with your copyright attorney on your best course of action.
Note: It is important for employers to either include an assignment of copyright clause in their employment contracts or independent contractor agreement, or to have a separate agreement signed by employees or freelancers.
Assignment of Copyright
THE PARTIES TO THIS AGREEMENT ARE:
Title / Description of the Work:
1. The Owner warrants that he/she is the sole creator and/or owner of all copyrights in the Work, and that he/she has full power to enter into this Agreement and that this Agreement does not infringe the rights of any third party.
2. The Owner does hereby assign and transfer to the Assignee the following copyrights in the Work, without reservation or exclusion:
3. The Owner agrees that the Assignee shall from here on own the said copyrights in the Work, to benefit and dispose of these rights in any way and at his/her sole discretion.
4. The Parties agree that this Agreement shall be binding upon the legal successors and assigns.
5. The Owner agrees to sign all necessary papers to procure registration of, or as further necessary to effect the assignment under this Agreement, as and where necessary.
6. In consideration of this Assignment of Copyright the Owner acknowledges receipt of due and sufficient consideration.
Signed at ___________________________
on this __________ day of __________________________20_______.
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Transfer of Copyright
Copyrights are a type of personal property right that grants the copyright owner control over the use and transfer of the copyrighted work. Copyrights are important because they allow an author to create original works without the fear of later having it stolen by another author. Although registering your copyright typically makes it much easier to defend your copyrighted works, it is not necessary. The work is considered to be protected by copyright upon its creation. There are instances where an author may want to transfer some or all of his or her copyright to another person or entity.
A copyright owner's exclusive rights (either in whole or in part) can be transferred to another party, but it must be in writing and signed by the copyright owner to be considered valid. An authorized agent of the copyright owner (such as an attorney or business associate) can also sign the writing. If the owner is transferring nonexclusive rights, however, a written agreement is not required.
How to Transfer a Copyright
The U.S. Copyright Office doesn't have forms for transfers of copyrights, so these transfers are normally made via contracts. The Copyright Office does, however, record transfers of copyrights. While recording the transfers with the Copyright Office is not required for a valid transfer, it can provide certain legal advantages and may also be required in order to validate a transfer against a third party.
There are basically two ways to figure out if a copyright has been transferred from one person to another. One way is to review the copyright registration certificate issued by the Copyright Office. The second way is to research and find a transfer or assignment agreement.
Termination of Transfers
An author who has transferred a copyright to another party can reacquire their rights after a certain number of years through the process of terminating a transfer. The process of terminating and reclaiming a copyright is a complex process, and the rules depend on when the work was initially published. Very generally, a termination of transfer can occur between 28 years and 56 years after first publication of the copyrighted work. These terminations are filed with the Copyright Office, and can therefore be found in the Copyright Office records.
Under previous law, the copyright of a work would revert back to the author if a renewal claim was registered in the 28th year of the original term of the copyright. In the event that the author was no longer alive, the copyright would go to the author's beneficiaries. Current law doesn't require a renewal claim, unless the work was already in the initial term of protection when the law changed. The current law in effect allows termination of transfer under certain conditions, 35 years after the copyright transfer was granted.
Getting Legal Help
Copyrights can be a complicated area of law. If you're interested in having a copyright transferred to you, it's important to make sure it is a valid legal transfer. For this reason, it may be a good idea to contact an experienced intellectual property attorney in your area to help you with a transfer of copyright agreement.
For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit FindLaw's section on Intellectual Property, including a subsection on Copyrights.