How to Purchase a Copyright

By Angela Floyd

You can obtain ownership rights of a copyright by negotiating a copyright transfer or assignment for a fee. Alternatively, and more commonly, you can obtain a license to use, but not own, a copyright-protected work, such as a book, a song or even a film, for some fee arrangement. In the U.S., works are protected by copyright as soon as they are created and fixed in a tangible form. You have to get permission from the copyright holder to use the work or purchase the copyright, regardless of registration.

Step 1

Find out who owns the copyright. The copyright holder for the work may be the creator or a third party. Check the copyright notice on the product to verify who the copyright holder is. If you still do not know who the owner is, you can contact the U.S. Copyright Office to conduct a search for you or conduct your own search on the copyright office’s website or in person at its location.

Step 2

Contact the copyright holder. You can call the owner directly to discuss your purchase of the copyright. Explain that you want to purchase the copyright. If the owner does not agree to an outright purchase of the copyright, discuss licensing options. Follow up with a letter containing specific information that reflects your discussion.

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Step 3

Get permission. Negotiate with the copyright owner to either transfer the copyright to you for a set fee or to license the work to you for use but not ownership. Be sure to get the arrangement in writing. Make sure the terms are fair and clear, and that you have obtained all the rights you need to make use of the copyright as you plan to. Sign the agreement and make arrangements to pay the fees. You may need a lawyer to draft or negotiate the license or transfer agreement for you.

Step 4

Record a copyright transfer or license with the U.S. Copyright Office. Recording is not required, but it can be useful to put others on notice about the change in ownership or license. The copyright office does not have an official form for a copyright transfer or license, but a signed copy of the agreement as well as a sworn statement of authenticity may be filed.

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The Difference Between Assignment Transfers & Copyrights


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