An assignment of copyright (sometimes referred to as a sales agreement for copyright, the sale of copyright, or a bill of sale for copyright) is an agreement whereby the owner of the copyright of the work transfers his ownership to another.
Generally speaking, the buyer (assignee) can do with the work as he pleases: destroy it, license others to use it, make money from it in any way and on-sell the rights to another party.
To be valid, an assignment of copyright (see our free legal form lower down on this page) must be in writing, signed by or on behalf of the assignor (i.e. owner). It must be clear about the subject of the assignment; i.e. what copyright in which work is being assigned.
Remember that one work may have many copyrights!
For example, a movie will (or may) have literary, music, cinematography, photographic, broadcast, choreographic (etc.) rights. Whilst an out and out assignment will cover all such rights, it is possible to separate out what is to be assigned. The same applies for different countries.
You also need to note that an assignment of copyright, does not include moral rights. You can have a waiver of moral right, but moral rights cannot be assigned!
As the owner of copyright in a work considering assignment you should assess whether licensing your copyright is not a better option. In this case you retain ownership, and only license certain rights to another party.
You will be well advised to consult with your copyright attorney on your best course of action.
Note: It is important for employers to either include an assignment of copyright clause in their employment contracts or independent contractor agreement, or to have a separate agreement signed by employees or freelancers.
THE PARTIES TO THIS AGREEMENT ARE:
Title / Description of the Work:
1. The Owner warrants that he/she is the sole creator and/or owner of all copyrights in the Work, and that he/she has full power to enter into this Agreement and that this Agreement does not infringe the rights of any third party.
2. The Owner does hereby assign and transfer to the Assignee the following copyrights in the Work, without reservation or exclusion:
3. The Owner agrees that the Assignee shall from here on own the said copyrights in the Work, to benefit and dispose of these rights in any way and at his/her sole discretion.
4. The Parties agree that ownership of the copyright work shall revert back to the assignor or his/her legal successors and assigns on the _____day of __________________ 20____ or at any time before as agreed to in writing by both parties. Where no date or jurisdiction is specified, the parties agree that the duration of assignment of ownership in the copyright work(s) shall be determined by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the agreement is concluded.
5. The Parties agree that this Agreement shall be binding upon the legal successors and assigns.
6. The Owner agrees to sign all necessary papers to procure registration of, or as further necessary to effect the assignment under this Agreement, as and where necessary.
7. In consideration of this Assignment of Copyright the Owner acknowledges receipt of due and sufficient consideration.
Signed at ___________________________
on this __________ day of __________________________20_______.
In #2 of our agreement above we make provision for a detailed description of which copyrights are specifically assigned. If you want to make it all inclusive, without exceptions, you can change the wording to:
2. The Owner does hereby assign and transfer to the Assignee all copyrights arising from the agreement between the Owner and Assignee, including any and all commissioned works without reservation or exclusion.
It is important to note that the assignment of ownership in copyright work(s) is not permanent, because copyright in itself does not last forever.
That said, failing to provide a clause in the agreement that clearly defines the term (or duration) of the assignment, will mean that the laws governing the jurisdiction in which the agreement was concluded (signed) will determine the term of the agreement.
An example of this would be Spain and Brazil, where the default term of an assignment agreement, unless otherwise stipulated, will be 5 years from the date the agreement was concluded.
Incidentally, in Germany, there cannot be an assignment of copyright, but copyright can be licensed.