Copyright Transfer

  • Setindiabiz Team
  • April 24, 2023
Copyright Transfer
This blog aims to provide a clear understanding of Copyright Transfer laws and mechanisms available under the Indian Copyrights Act of 1957. The topics covered include Copyright Assignment, Licensing, Transmission and Relinquishment with detailed discussion on their meaning, scope and legal provisions.
Copyright transfer refers to the process by which the owner of a copyright, typically the creator of a creative work, transfers their exclusive rights to another individual or entity while the copyright is still in its validity period. It involves granting permission to the transferee or assignee to exercise and exploit the rights associated with the copyrighted work, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display, or create derivative works.
Copyright Transfer is often done through legal agreements, such as licensing or assignment contracts, and allows the transferee to use the copyrighted work in specified ways while the original copyright owner may receive compensation or other benefits in return. Copyright transfer plays a crucial role in facilitating the dissemination, commercialization, and protection of creative works in India.

What are the Ways of Initiating Copyright Transfer in India?

Initiating a copyright transfer in India is a crucial step in the realm of intellectual property, whereby creators and authors are allowed to grant their rights to third parties for mutual benefit. These rights include exclusive control over the use of the work, its distribution, reproduction, and publication throughout India. Understanding the different methods of effecting a copyright transfer is essential for both creators and recipients. Copyright subsists with the original owner or author of the work for the entire span of his lifetime plus sixty years from his death, and at any point of time within this duration, the rights can be transferred in the manners discussed below.

1. Copyright Licensing

Copyright Licensing involves the transfer of all or some of the rights of a copyright owner, to a third party, under the aegis of a Licensing Agreement signed by both. The objective here is to enable the licensee to utilize the copyrighted work for financial benefits and share the same with the owner. Copyright Licensing is not the same as Copyright Assignment. In licensing, the ownership rights remain intact with the original creator and only the right to use is transferred, whereas, in assignment, the ownership right itself gets transferred.

Types of Copyright Licenses

Copyright Licenses can either be voluntary or Compulsory. Let’s understand the difference between the two.
  1. Voluntary license: A license signed voluntarily by two parties, the licensor and the licensee is a Voluntary License. It should contain the following details.
    1. Rights licensed and nature of the work.
    2. Geographical extent of the license.
    3. Terms and conditions relating to the termination, revision, and extension of the license.
    4. Total amount of royalty to be paid in exchange of the license
  2. Compulsory License: A compulsory license is granted by the copyright board to third parties without the permission of the Copyright Owner. This is usually done when the owner refuses to make the work available in the public domain. Specific circumstances may include:
    1. If a copyright owner has already published his work once, and is refusing to republish it in order to make it available in the public domain.
    2. If a copyright owner has refused to allow the performance of a work in public, which has already been performed previously, and as a result, restricting its availability in the public domain.
      1. If a copyright owner has refused the communication of a work in the public domain by broadcast.
    Note that “work” here refers to a cinematographic film or a sound recording made in India, or an artistic work created by a citizen of India.

2. Copyright Assignment

The ownership rights of a copyrighted work can be assigned by its owner to any other person using the Copyright Assignment mechanism. As soon as a work is created or comes into existence, its owner or author becomes entitled to assign his rights to third parties. Further, a copyright owner is entitled to multiple rights which are both economic and ethical. All of these rights are transferred to the new owner after assignment. According to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 a prospective copyright owner of a future work may also assign his rights partially or wholly to a third party by way of Copyright. The assignment will have an effect only when the work would come into existence.
To assign a copyright, an Assignment Agreement has to be signed between the assignor and the assignee. Since this Agreement is a legal document, it must be drafted in a proper format. Here’s what it must contain:
  1. The terms and conditions regarding the revision and termination of the assignment should be explicit.
  2. The total amount of royalty paid for the assignment should be mentioned.
  3. The assignment agreement should be in writing duly executed by the copyright owner (Assignor).
  4. The copyrighted work and the rights assigned should be mentioned clearly.
  5. If the term of assignment is not mentioned, then the term shall be taken as 5 years from the date of assignment by default. If the geographical limit is not stated, then it is assumed to the extent within India.

3. Copyright Transmission

If the owner of the copyright dies, who was working on a manuscript of dramatic, literary, artistic, or musical work and was unable to publish the manuscript before dying, then, in that case, the copyright ownership is transmitted to the person stated in his will.

4. Copyright Relinquishment

Copyright relinquishment refers to the voluntary surrender or abandonment of all or specific rights vested to the author of a copyrighted work. For this, the Copyright owner will have to give notice to the Registrar of Copyrights in the prescribed form. The rights shall cease to exist from the date of the notice. The registrar shall cause the notice to be published in the Official Gazette, once he receives such notice, or he may cause the notice to be published in such a manner as he deems fit.

In the ever-evolving landscape of creativity and intellectual property, copyright transfer emerges as a vital mechanism for creators to protect and share their works. Whether through licensing or assignment, the transfer of copyright enables innovation, collaboration, and the responsible utilization of creative works. By understanding the intricacies and importance of copyright transfer, both creators and recipients can navigate the complex terrain of intellectual property, fostering a thriving ecosystem that respects the rights of creators while promoting the free flow of ideas. Embracing copyright transfer as a tool for empowerment and growth, we pave the way for a future where creativity flourishes and society benefits from the collective wealth of human expression.



Licensing involves granting specific rights of usership to others while retaining ownership to oneself, whereas assignment involves transferring complete ownership rights to the other party.
Copyright transfer can be partial, allowing creators to retain certain rights while granting specific rights to third parties as outlined in a specific agreement.
While specific legal requirements may vary by jurisdiction, copyright transfer often requires a written agreement, signed by the parties involved to establish the intent and terms of the transfer.
A copyright assignment agreement should include explicit terms and conditions mutually agreed by both parties, total royalty amounts, clear identification of the copyrighted work, and the assigned rights, to ensure clarity and enforceability of the agreement.
In general, once copyright transfer has been executed, it is binding. However, there may be circumstances, such as mutual agreement or legal disputes, where copyright transfer can be challenged or invalidated.
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One thought on “Copyright Transfer”

  1. Great resource for understanding copyright transfer,I appreciate your hardowrk on this blog. Thanks for sharing this helpful link.

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