Copyright licensing is the transfer of one or more of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights.
- What Happens If I Transfer My Exclusive Rights to Another Person?
- Can I License the Same Right to More than One Person?
- How Do I Transfer My Rights to Another Person?
- What Is a Copyright Assignment?
- Should I Record the Transfer of Copyright Ownership?
- Are Transfers Permanent?
- Do I Need a Lawyer to License My Copyright?
If you transfer one or more of your exclusive rights to another person completely, you have granted them an exclusive license. An exclusive license gives its owner the right to exclude all others, including the original copyright owner, from exercising the rights granted in the license. A copyright owner may choose to grant an exclusive license for several reasons including:
- Making money – The licensee may pay the copyright owner for use of one of the rights.
- Publicity – For example, an author of a book might authorize a movie studio to produce a movie based on the book in order to draw more interest and publicity to the author and the book.
You can license the same right to more than one person as long as you make all licensees aware of the fact that you are not giving them an exclusive license. A license that allows you to license the same right to other people is called a nonexclusive license.
If you wish to transfer one or more of your rights to another person exclusively, you must put the transfer in writing and sign it. Creating a nonexclusive license, however, requires no written document. In fact, nonexclusive licenses can even be implied if the conduct of the parties indicates licensing.
A copyright assignment is an extreme type of exclusive license in which a copyright owner transfers all of his exclusive rights to another person. Like an exclusive license, a copyright assignment must be in writing.
You are not required to record a transfer of copyright ownership, but doing so can protect your rights if the copyright owner licenses to someone else. If you are the first to receive a license, promptly recording your license can protect you from losing your rights to a conflicting licensee.
If a copyright owner has placed no time restrictions on a license, the transfer of rights is permanent for a period of 35 years. At that point, the original copyright owner has a 5 year window to exercise his right to terminate any licenses or assignments. If the original copyright owner chooses to end a license at this point, the licensee has to give up all the rights granted in the license.
Licensing a copyright can be complex. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help you draft a licensing agreement for your copyright. A intellectual lawyer can also represent you in court if you have a copyright dispute.