Assignment of copyright is the transfer of the rights the copyright owner holds to another person or legal entity in exchange for consideration. Assignment of copyright is like selling property: once the rights are transferred, the former copyright owner has no authority over how the assignee uses the copyright.

What is Licensing of Copyright?

A license is where the copyright owner keeps control over the rights in a copyright, but also permits another person or legal entity to exercise some of those rights, again, in exchange for consideration. Copyright owners who want to retain control over how the work is used prefer licensing over assignment.

What Are the Limits on Assignment of Copyright?

For both assignment and licensing, the holder of the copyright generally can decide which rights he will transfer, whether it is all the rights or only one. Examples of limits a copyright owner can place on the transfer include:

  • Time limits
  • Territorial limits
  • Media limits
  • Nonexclusive rights

A transfer of exclusive rights, which gives those rights to the transferee alone, must be in writing to be valid. Transfers of nonexclusive rights, however, can be by written or oral agreement.

Do I Need an Intellectual Property Attorney?

If you are involved in the transfer of a copyright, it would be wise to speak to a copyright attorney with experience in copyright. An attorney can make sure the transfer agreement protects your rights to the fullest extent possible.