Recordation Of Copyright Assignment Work

General Information

A copyright assignment is the transfer of one’s ownership of a copyrighted work to another person or entity. The prior owner (assignor) gives up all rights to the work to the new owner (assignee). The assignee gains all rights to the work as the legal or beneficial owner and may take legal action to prevent infringing uses of the work, etc. Copyright Act Section 501(b).

According to federal law, a voluntary transfer of copyright ownership is not valid unless the details of the conveyance are contained in a writing signed by the copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent. Copyright Act Section 204(a).

Purpose/Necessity

An assignment may be used:

  1. After a business is sold and the work’s rights are transferred to the purchaser
  2. As security for a debt (through a mortgage or other security interest)
  3. As a bequest in a will or an asset passed to heirs by intestacy/probate
  4. As part of the distribution of assets following a bankruptcy proceeding
  5. The work’s owner retains ownership but changes his or her name
  6. The work’s owner retains ownership but changes its business name or entity type
  7. Any other instance where the owner of a work wishes to transfer it to another

Recording an assignment is not mandatory to assign the interest bur provides the following advantages:

  1. Recording the transfer establishes a public record of the details of the transfer and the contents of the document affecting the transfer. Such details will appear in the Copyright Office’s online public catalog.
  2. Under Section 205c of the Copyright Act, recording provides constructive notice of the facts stated in the recorded document if:
    • The document or material attached to it specifically identifies the work to which it pertains so that, after the document is indexed by the Register of Copyrights, it would be revealed by a reasonable search under title or registration number of the work; and
    • Registration has been made for the work.
  3. Constructive notice means that the public is deemed to have knowledge of the facts stated in the document – including those speaking to the ownership of rights – and cannot claim otherwise.
  4. Under Sections 205d and 205e of the Copyright Act, recording establishes priority of rights as between conflicting assignments/transfers of ownership, or between a conflicting assignment and a nonexclusive license. This means that the first recorded assignment will be taken as valid as against any later alleged assignments.
  5. In some instances, recording may be necessary to validate the transfer of copyrights as against third parties. Copyright Office – Circular 1: Copyright Basics.
  6. In some states, recording may be necessary to perfect a security interest. Copyright Office – Circular 12: Recordation of Transfers and Other Documents.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What rights may be transferred by a copyright assignment?
    • Once a work is created and fixed in a tangible form, the author (or the author’s employer if the work was a Work Made for Hire), gains certain rights to the copyrighted work. The author has the exclusive right to:
      •  Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
      •  Prepare derivative works based upon the work;
      •  Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public; and
      •  Perform or display the work publicly.The author may subsequently transfer all or part of these rights through an (permanent) assignment or a (temporary) license. Copyright Act Section 201(d)(2). Following negotiations between the parties as to the terms of the transfer, a written document must be signed by the owner of the rights conveyed stating the particular rights to be conveyed.
  • How does an assignment affect the work’s copyright duration?
    • An assignment does not alter the work’s copyright duration. The assignee gains all rights transferred for the remainder of the copyright in effect. For works created by a single author, the length of copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. Copyright Act Section 302(a).
  • What types of documents may transfer ownership of a copyright?
    • According to the Copyright Act, a copyright may be transferred by any means of conveyance, including bequeath by will or pass through intestate succession. Copyright Act Section 201(d)(1). Some types of documents that may suffice include an assignment, mortgage, contract, deed, or promissory note.If you use our firm to assist you in your copyright assignment, we review your document to ensure that it conveys the rights desired, and then record it with the Copyright Office to establish a public record. Alternatively, if you do not have an existing document of transfer, we can draft a document to meet your purposes and then complete the recording process.
  • Is there a standard written document that can be used to complete the assignment?
  • Does the work have to be filed with the Copyright Office prior to transferring its underlying copyright to someone else?
    • No, the rights given by copyright are the author’s immediately upon fixing the work in a tangible medium of expression. These rights may be transferred through a written instrument and the Copyright Office will record such an instrument before or after the work has been registered with the Copyright Office. Copyright Act Section 205(a). However, there are several important benefits of copyright registration, and it is helpful to register the work so that the recorded assignment references a work indexed in the Copyright Office’s records.
  • Does the work have to be published prior to assigning its copyright?

Legal Services Offered and Cost

Recording of Copyright Assignment
Note: this service is for copyright holders who have already transferred their copyright through a written instrument but have not yet filed/recorded the instrument
Legal fees: $150 flat fee
Filing fees and other costs: $105 to record a document transferring a copyright if the work has only 1 title. Additional $30 if the work has multiple titles, up to 11 total. Copyright Office Fees.
This includes:

  1. Review of client’s information to ensure legal requirements are fulfilled
  2. Answer client questions, make corrections, and obtain additional information as needed
  3. Review of copyright assignment document to ensure proper transfer is made
  4. Completion of Copyright Recordation Document Cover Sheet
  5. Submission of the assignment document, Cover Sheet, and filing fee with the Copyright Office
  6. Email confirmation of copyright assignment recording by the Copyright Office with official Certificate of Recordation

If you are ready to get started, please CLICK HERE to enter basic information using our secure online form.

 

Drafting and Recording of Copyright Assignment
Legal fees: $250 flat fee
Filing fees and other costs: $105 to record a document transferring a copyright if the work has only 1 title. Additional $30 if the work has multiple titles, up to 11 total. Copyright Office Fees.

This includes:

  1. Review of client’s information to ensure legal requirements are fulfilled
  2. Answer client questions, make corrections, and obtain additional information as needed
  3. Completion of copyright assignment document to make the assignment
  4. Completion of Copyright Recordation Document Cover Sheet
  5. Submission of the assignment document, Cover Sheet, and filing fee with the Copyright Office
  6. Email confirmation of copyright assignment recording by the Copyright Office with official Certificate of Recordation

If you are ready to get started, please CLICK HERE to enter basic information using our secure online form.

Historical and Revision Notes

house report no. 94–1476

The recording and priority provisions of section 205 are intended to clear up a number of uncertainties arising from sections 30 and 31 of the present law [sections 30 and 31 of former title 17] and to make them more effective and practical in operation. Any “document pertaining to a copyright” may be recorded under subsection (a) if it “bears that actual signature of the person who executed it,” or if it is appropriately certified as a true copy. However, subsection (c) makes clear that the recorded document will give constructive notice of its contents only if two conditions are met: (1) the document or attached material specifically identifies the work to which it pertains so that a reasonable search under the title or registration number would reveal it, and (2) registration has been made for the work. Moreover, even though the Register of Copyrights may be compelled to accept for recordation documents that on their face appear self-serving or colorable, the Register should take care that their nature is not concealed from the public in the Copyright Office’s indexing and search reports.

The provisions of subsection (d), requiring recordation of transfers as a prerequisite to the institution of an infringement suit, represent a desirable change in the law. The one- and three-month grace periods provided in subsection (e) are a reasonable compromise between those who want a longer hiatus and those who argue that any grace period makes it impossible for a bona fide transferee to rely on the record at any particular time.

Under subsection (f) of section 205, a nonexclusive license in writing and signed, whether recorded or not, would be valid against a later transfer, and would also prevail as against a prior unrecorded transfer if taken in good faith and without notice. Objections were raised by motion picture producers, particularly to the provision allowing unrecorded nonexclusive licenses to prevail over subsequent transfers, on the ground that a nonexclusive license can have drastic effects on the value of a copyright. On the other hand, the impracticalities and burdens that would accompany any requirement of recordation of nonexclusive licenses outweigh the limited advantages of a statutory recordation system for them.

Amendments

2010—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 111–295 inserted at end “A sworn or official certification may be submitted to the Copyright Office electronically, pursuant to regulations established by the Register of Copyrights.”

1988—Subsecs. (d) to (f). Pub. L. 100–568 redesignated subsecs. (e) and (f) as (d) and (e), respectively, and struck out former subsec. (d), which read as follows: “No person claiming by virtue of a transfer to be the owner of copyright or of any exclusive right under a copyright is entitled to institute an infringement action under this title until the instrument of transfer under which such person claims has been recorded in the Copyright Office, but suit may be instituted after such recordation on a cause of action that arose before recordation.”

Recordation of Shareware

Pub. L. 101–650, title VIII, § 805, Dec. 1, 1990, 104 Stat. 5136, provided that:

“(a)In General.—

The Register of Copyrights is authorized, upon receipt of any document designated as pertaining to computer shareware and the fee prescribed by section 708 of title 17, United States Code, to record the document and return it with a certificate of recordation.

“(b)Maintenance of Records; Publication of Information.—

The Register of Copyrights is authorized to maintain current, separate records relating to the recordation of documents under subsection (a), and to compile and publish at periodic intervals information relating to such recordations. Such publications shall be offered for sale to the public at prices based on the cost of reproduction and distribution.

“(c)Deposit of Copies in Library of Congress.—

In the case of public domain computer software, at the election of the person recording a document under subsection (a), 2 complete copies of the best edition (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code) of the computer software as embodied in machine-readable form may be deposited for the benefit of the Machine-Readable Collections Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

“(d)Regulations.—

The Register of Copyrights is authorized to establish regulations not inconsistent with law for the administration of the functions of the Register under this section. All regulations established by the Register are subject to the approval of the Librarian of Congress.”

Registration of Claims to Copyrights and Recordation of Assignments of Copyrights and Other Instruments Under Predecessor Provisions

Recordation of assignments of copyrights or other instruments received in the Copyright Office before Jan. 1, 1978, to be made in accordance with this title as it existed on Dec. 31, 1977, see section 109 of Pub. L. 94–553, set out as a note under section 410 of this title.

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