How to Start a Copyright Assignment

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An Overview of Copyright Assignment

Copyright is an essential part of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), and it is the exclusive right granted to the Copyright owner to sell, publish, protect & record sounds or artistic works. Nowadays, because of the expansion of media & communication all around the world, almost everyone is aware of the Copyright concept. The objective of Copyright is to grant legal protection to the creator or owner with a chance to make economic gains out of their creations. Copyright also gives recognition to the original work and gives many exclusive rights to the owners of Copyright, depending on the work. A Copyright owner can also share their creativity with others for mutual benefits, and it can be done by Copyright Assignment.

Copyright Assignment means that the Copyright owner has the right to assign their Copyright to any other person. The effect of Copyright Assignment is that the assignee becomes eligible for all the rights concerning Copyright to the assigned work.  But, mere grant of right to sell & publish the copyrighted work amounts to publishing right and not Copyright Assignment.

Where the Copyright assignee becomes eligible to any right included in the Copyright, he or she shall be treated as the Copyright owner regarding those rights. The assignor shall be treated as the Copyright owner with respect to unassigned rights. The assignee's legal representatives shall be eligible for the benefits of Copyright Assignment if the assignee dies before the work comes into existence.

What is a Copyright Assignment Agreement?

It's an agreement that transfers the Copyright for a work from the Copyright holder to another party. This is one legal option for authors & publishers of magazines, movies, books, video games, and other commercials, artistic works who want to comprise and use a work of a second author or creator. For instance, a game developer who wants to pay an artist/author/creator to draw a boss to involve in a game. Another choice is to license the right to comprise & use the work, rather than transferring the Copyright. Generally, Copyright Assignment Agreements must be in writing and signed by the person or individual transferring the Copyright.

Different Aspects of Copyright Assignment

Following are some different aspects of Copyright Assignment:
  1. In case of Copyright Assignment in any future work, it shall take effect when the work comes into existence. In this context, the assignee comprises the legal representatives of the assignee if he or she dies before the work comes into presence (vide Section 18 (1) Provision of the Copyright Act).
  2. It’s a financial opportunity for the first Copyright owner. The Assignment of Copyright must specify the amount of Copyright (vide Section 19(3) of the Act). The author or creator shall not assign or waive the right to receive royalties to be shared with the Copyright assignee equally, subject to certain conditions (vide Section 18 (1) of the Act).
  3. The Assignment should be written & signed by the assignor or by their duly authorised agents (vide Section 19(1) of the Act).
  4. The Copyright ownership may be assigned either entirely or only for a part of the work (vide Section 18(1) of the Copyright Act).
  5. The Assignment shall be subject to extension, termination, or revision on terms equally agreed by the parties (vide Section 19(3) of the Copyright Act).
  6. The creator is eligible for successive royalties in the course of future exploitation of a cinematographic film, which comprises their work, other than by means of exhibitions in a cinema hall.
  7. A reasonable assignment is just the agreement to assign.
  8. If the Copyright Assignment is in opposition to the terms & conditions of the rights assigned to a Copyright Society already to which the creator is a member, it shall be considered void (vide Section 19(8) of the Act).
  9. For a manuscript, the Copyright being a personal or special property of the owner can be transmitted by an official document.
  10. The assignee has the rights of adaptation, translation, dramatic, abridgement, and filmmaking in work.
  11. The agreement deed may state the territorial extent of such Copyright Assignment. It shall be supposed to extend within India (vide Section 19(6) of the Act).
  12. For relinquishment of work, the creator or author has to give notice in a prescribed form to the Copyright Registrar or by means of public notice. On its receipt, the Copyright Registrar shall publish it in the Official Gazette. With fourteen days of the publication, The Copyright Registrar shall post the notice on the Copyright Office website, so such notice remains in the public domain for not less than three years. Such right shall finish existing from the notice date. (Vide Section 21 of the Act).
  13. Where the assignee fails to implement their rights within one year from the date of Copyright Assignment, the Assignment concerning such right shall be considered to have lapsed.

Moral Rights of the Author

Moral rights are the rights that are separate from the author's Copyright. It shall remain with the creator or author even if he or she has assigned their Copyright to someone. Following are some vital moral rights of an author of the work:

  • In case of any tampering with the actual work, the creator shall have the right to claim damages. It includes modification, mutilation, or distortion of the original work;
  • The actual creator or author of the work has the right to claim the work ownership;
  • Suppose by the commission/omission of any act of the assignee, and any damage is being caused to all original creators’ goodwill. In that case, they shall have the authority to claim damages. It is vital to note that an act should have been done before the term expiry of the Assignment.

Disputes Regarding Copyright Assignment

According to Section 19 (a), the Appellate Board may, on the receipt of the complaint from the assignor & on holding such inquiry as it may consider vital, repeal such Assignment if the assignee fails to make sufficient exercise of the rights assigned to hem & such failure is not accountable regarding an act or omission of the assignor.

The Appellate Board has the authority to pass a particular order on compliant receipt from the aggrieved party. In case of a dispute concerning Copyright Assignment and after conducting such inquiry as it considers fit comprising an order for the recovery of royalty;

  • Provided that the Board will not come to an end to revoke the Assignment till it is content with the fact that the assignment terms are inconsiderate to the assignor if the assignor is also the author;
  • Moreover, provided that no order for revocation of Assignment shall be made within five years from such assignment date.

A deliberate effort has been made to define the requirements for the Copyright Assignment, remember both the assignee & the assignor, and also to provide for contingencies concerning which the assignment toll is not definite to safeguard the assignor's interest. The Amendment to the Copyright Act also gives remedies to the assignor via Copyright.

Relinquishment of Copyrights by the Author

The Copyright Act, 1957 includes relinquishing the Copyrights of a creator or author in the Copyrighted Works. A creator or author can give notice to the Copyright Registrar in a suggested form or via public notice. But, relinquishment of the Copyrights shall not affect the rights which are in favour of any individual on the notice date.

Then, the Copyright Registrar will post the notice on the official website of the Copyright Office within fourteen days from the date of a notice published in the Gazette so that it will remain in the public domain.

The relinquishment of such rights will confirm that the works come under the public domain from the date of notice publication. However, if such rights are in favour of some other individual on the notice date, such rights won't be affected. Hence, the work shall come under the public domain as soon as the other person's rights cease.

Assignment by Operation of Law (Section 20)

If the Copyright owner dies, then the Copyright will pass on to their personal or legal representative as part of the estate, given that no will has been executed. Section 20 provides that if an individual is eligible for Copyright under legacy and such work has not been published before the testator’s decease unless a contrary intention is shown under testators will or any addition thereto, such individual shall be deemed as having Copyright in work so far as testator was the Copyright owner instantly before their death.

What are the Differences Between Copyright Assignment and Copyright Licensing?

There are two ways that an owner of Copyright can transfer some or all of their Copyright rights via Copyright Licensing or Assignment. But there are some dissimilarities between them, and you can check the same below.

A license gives an authorisation of an act, and without it, the authorisation would amount to an infringement. Usually, Licensing entails exclusive or non-exclusive rights. In the case of Assignment, it entails the Copyright disposal which means, the assignor assigns the Copyright to another or transfer Copyright ownership to some other individual, whereas in License, only some interest of IP (Intellectual Property) is transferred & ownership is not transferred to the licensee. A license does not present any right to the licensee against 3rd party or licensor and even a right to sue the licensor.

A licensee also has the rights or authority to make changes or modifications given that their License doesn't restrict that right. If there is any failure in paying the royalties, the licensor can revoke the License. In the case of Copyright Assignment, it is not possible. If there is anything unkind that can affect the author, it may lead to withdrawal in the event of a complaint or grievance made to the Copyright Board.

Unlike Copyright Assignment, Copyright License should be signed in writing, and it can be oral or implied after considering all the conditions and elements regarding the transaction between the Copyright owner & licensee. Hence, if anyone who is the original owner of the copyrighted work thinks about assigning the Copyright, they can deem licensing their Copyright instead of assigning it. It will help you in keeping Copyright ownership, thereby licensing only certain rights to another party.

A Copyright Assignment mainly transfers an interest & it deals with Copyright as per Section 14 of the Copyright Act, but License does not utterly Copyright; instead, it only permits a right to do something that would be illegal or unauthorised if one without a license.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ans. Copyright Assignment means that the owner of the Copyright has the right to assign his or her Copyright to any other person.

The duration of the Assignment must also be specified. The Delhi HC recognised Section 19(5) and stated that if the agreement deed is quiet about the duration, it shall be considered to be five years from the assignment date.

The Copyright Assignment should be done in writing to be valid.

Yes, like any other property, all or part of the rights in work may be transferred by the Copyright owner to another.

In a license, the person granting permission (licensor) retains an interest in the property being licensed. Whereas, in Copyright Assignment, the assignor transfer their rights to the property being assigned.

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