Are you the owner of a copyright that you are thinking about selling?
The good news is that a copyright is treated like any other personal property, meaning that the owner of a copyrighted work may transfer all, or even parts, of their rights to another person or company. The transfer or sale of copyright is normally done through contracts, as copyrights can only be “assigned” (meaning sold or transferred) by the execution of a written document signed by the copyright owner.
Essentially, all that’s required to transfer or sell your copyright is that you put the details of the agreement in writing. Similarly, copyrights can be bequeathed in a will or trust after the copyright holder’s passing. Again, this is done in writing by way of the copyright holder’s legal estate planning documents.
It’s important to note that a copyright does not need to be federally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in order for it to be transferred or sold. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office does not even need to be notified of the sale, but you can still voluntarily record your copyright transfer to the U.S. Copyright Office in order to create an official record. If you are the assignee (purchaser) we highly suggest that you record the assignment in order to put all others on notice to your ownership.
Before you decide to sell or transfer your copyright to a third party, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
- It’s impossible to predict the value that your copyright will have in the future. By selling your copyright outright, you are taking the risk of losing out on royalties and income should the reproduction or merchandising of your work become more successful down the road.
- Once you transfer or assign your copyright completely to another person or party, you may lose the ability to stop the work from being altered in any way when reproduced. This could violate your moral rights or artistic integrity and may ultimately not be worth it to you in the end.
- Once you transfer or assign your copyright completely to another person or party, you may lose the ability to create similar works if deemed a derivative of the original.
- It may be wise to grant a third party a licensing agreement instead. Under this type of agreement, you would continue to retain your copyright, but the other party would have the ability to use your work according to the terms of the licensing agreement for a set period of time. This allows you to profit from your work in new ways without giving up all of your rights or creative control.
Finally, when it comes to the process of selling or transferring any of your copyrights, it is a wise idea to talk with an attorney before locking into a contract. Again, alternative strategies such as licensing may be a better fit for your goals, and your attorney will be able to walk you through your options so that you are making the best choices when it comes to profiting from your creative works.
If you need help getting started, we invite you to contact our copyright and trademark law firm at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.