A license is something that gives you a legal right to do or use something in which another person has a property interest. In the case of a copyrighted work, a license allows you to use that material in certain ways. For example, a license may allow you to reproduce and distribute copyrighted material. In order to use copyrighted material, you must obtain a license from the owner of the copyright, otherwise you could be sued.

How Do I Determine If the Work Is Copyrighted?

There are many ways to determine if something is copyrighted. You can:

  • Examine the work itself to see if there is a copyright notice on it
  • Search through the records of the Copyright Office
  • Have the Copyright Office perform a search for you

These are just a few of the many possible ways to determine if a work is copyrighted.

The next step in obtaining a license is to obtain the permission of the owner to use the material. The method for obtaining permission can vary with the type of work. Often, there are licensing organizations that either hold the copyrights or represent the copyright holders. You must contact these organizations to obtain a license for works they cover. If you know who the copyright owner is, you can contact him or her directly.

Licensing Agreements

Permission to use a copyrighted work is articulated through a Licensing Agreement. This agreement will include:

  • The scope of the license (what you can use the copyright for)
  • Terms of compensation
  • Length of the agreement
  • Any other rights or limitations you have

Not all license agreements include the same provisions, and each agreement can be easily tailored to suit your needs.

Do I Need a Lawyer to License a Copyright?

Creating a licensing agreement can be complex and difficult. An experienced intellectual property lawyer can help you draft a licensing agreement. An IP attorney can also represent you in court if you have a copyright dispute.