Copyright assignment and licensing
Published by a LexisNexis IP expert
Last updated on 27/07/2020

The following IP practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright assignment and licensing
  • Transferring ownership by assignment
  • Assignment—format
  • Assignment of future copyright
  • Equitable assignment
  • Licences
  • Determining whether an assignment or licence has been granted
  • Exclusive licence
  • Other licences
  • Copyright passing on death of owner
  • More...

Copyright assignment and licensing

Copyright is a property right and may be transferred by assignment, testamentary disposition or by the requirements of law such as on bankruptcy.

Ownership of copyright and ownership of the physical subject matter of the copyright works are separate. For example, a sculpture may be enjoyed and admired by the purchaser but it is unlikely that the copyright in terms of the right to reproduce the work will have been transferred at point of sale. If someone wishes to make a copy of the sculpture or otherwise exploit the work, then this has to be expressly or impliedly authorised by the owner of the copyright by the granting of an assignment or licence.

Transferring ownership by assignment

Copyright notices are published by the Intellectual Property Office to help explain specific areas of copyright in the UK. For a simple guide to assignment of copyright, aimed at small businesses and individuals who may wish to assign their own copyright to another person or have been asked to assign their copyright as part of a contract or terms and conditions, see the IPO’s copyright notice on copyright assignment.


An assignment must be in writing and signed by or on behalf of the assignor. It does not need to be in agreement form and may be done in a letter.

Where the assignment has been done orally it is likely

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Key definition:
Copyright definition
What does Copyright mean?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protecting artistic or creative works such as books and other written material, drama, music, art, sound and video recordings, broadcasts and software. Copyright protects the expression of information or an idea, not the information or idea itself.

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