Can I Transfer the Rights in My Copyright?

As with any other property right, if you own a copyright, you can transfer your exclusive rights. It is actually quite common for a copyright owner to transfer some or all of their rights when they want to commercially exploit the work covered by the copyright. Of course, there are certain rules and requirements that must be followed to ensure that a transfer is legally enforceable and protects the rights of the parties involved.

For instance, the transfer must be made in writing and signed by the copyright owner, or their authorized agent, stating what rights are conveyed. Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement.

A copyright may also be conveyed by operation of law. For example, a copyright may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession (no will, you should contact an estate planning attorney to draft a legally binding will).

Types of Transfers

Transfers of copyright can be made by contract, where the copyright owner may restrict the terms of the transfer. For instance, the owner may limit the transfer to a specific period of time or certain type of media.

An “assignment” is where a copyright owner transfers all of their rights unconditionally.  When only some of the rights in the copyright are transferred, it is a “license.”

An exclusive license is created when the transferred rights can be exercised only by the owner of the license, and no one else—including the person who granted the license. If the license allows others to exercise the same rights being transferred in the license, the license is non-exclusive.

Recording a Transfer

Although recordation is not required to create a valid transfer between the parties, transfers may be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office.  I highly recommend that you record all transfers.  Recordation offers certain legal advantages and may be required to validate the transfer as against third parties.

How Can I Help

Of course, this post provides only a broad overview of the copyright transfer process. If you are seeking to transfer your rights, it is advisable to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.

If you have a copyright that needs to be transferred, licensed or assigned, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.  Connect with me on Google +.

– Ex astris, scientia –

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