Who Owns Copyright?

Who can claim copyright?

One of the biggest issues that people face, especially dealing with websites and online products, is who owns the copyright?

Copyright protection enables the owner to claim against a person who infringes their rights, to recover income that they may have lost as a result of that infringement. It also means you get to keep using the created work.

Copyright protection also enables the owner to pretty much do what they want with their copyrighted work.

The thing is, to have copyright ownership, you actually have to either create the work yourself, or have a WRITTEN assignment or transfer of the copyright to you.

Never assume that because you are paying someone to produce something for you that you have copyright in the resulting product. You are almost guaranteed to run into trouble.

Have a written agreement stating that you are the owner of the copyright in the work once complete and that the creator gives up all intellectual property rights as soon as they are paid.

In a work for hire situation, you want the creator to give up all of their intellectual property rights in the work, including moral rights, as soon as they are paid.

You want to do this to ensure that you can use the created work in the way you always intended, without being stopped, or sued by the original creator.

Once you own the copyright in a work, you can license different aspects to other people. For example, if you own copyright in a book that someone wants to translate, you can license the translation and publication, within whatever language and geographical boundaries that you can negotiate. You could license the translation into many different languages to many different companies. Equally you might have someone interested in licensing the film rights, and so on.

Negotiating for full copyright after the fact is a lot harder than doing it up front. If we put together some basic agreements for you to use, what would you like to see included and what would you want to use them for?

In the case of copyright, gaining forgiveness after the fact is not always easier than getting the permission up front. Get your rights right! It can cost a lot of money to aquire an assignment of the copyright in a work once its value has already been proven. Just think about the money people are prepared to pay for the rights to music. 

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3 Responses to “Who Owns Copyright?”

  1. TBT June 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I just come across that a website owner claims the copyrights of the free travel pages for it’s members from another website which only publishes the original authors’ names but left out the original sources accidently. Can the 1st website owner claims the copyright of the product without paying any fees to the author OR the authors themselves still own their copyrights? Is it legal when the website owners sells the website company to another website company for a big sum but never give any bonus to any original authors?

    • Jeanette Jifkins June 27, 2012 at 6:17 am #

      Great questions, thank TBT.
      As I understand it, you are referring to one business with at least two websites. The first website has members. I would guess that the terms of membership include permission to the website owner to use posts made by members as it sees fit in that business – which possibly includes the second website. This is a licence to use copyright and does not extinguish the copyright the original author has in that work.
      The matter of authoriship relates to moral rights. I would be surprised if the business owner was permitted to remove authorship and there may be a problem there.
      Changes in ownership of copyright do not automatically involve fees. Certainly not on the internet. So, a website that has a licence to use posts as a result of its membership terms, may acquire that right without paying a fee.
      The sale of a business often involves the transfer of all the elements of that business, which would include website content. No permissions or payments to content creators would be required if the original terms that allowed the website owner to use posts were properly written.
      Unless the permission to use posts was irrevocable, the author to remove permission for use.

  2. Dr Robyn - yourbrainyourlife August 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    In writing my book I engaged graphic artists to produce some 80 humorous illustrations on life, people, the nervous system and the human brain.Your copyright assignment clauses for paid work are very relevant indeed.Sincerely Dr Robyn

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