2309.1 What Is a Transfer of Ownership?
Section 205 (A) of the Copyright Act states that “[a]ny transfer of copyright ownership . . . may be recorded in the Copyright Office if the document filed for recordation bears the actual signature of the person who executed it, or if it is accompanied by a sworn or official certification that it is a true copy of the original, signed document.”
Section 101 of the Copyright Act states that a “transfer of copyright ownership” is “an assignment, mortgage, exclusive license, or any other conveyance, alienation, or hypothecation of a copyright or of any of the exclusive rights comprised in a copyright, whether or not it is limited in time or place of effect . . .” It also states that a nonexclusive license is not a transfer of copyright ownership.
The copyright in a work of authorship initially belongs to the author or co-authors of that work. Section 201 (D) (1) of the Copyright Act states that “[t]he ownership of a copyright may be transferred in whole or in part by any means of conveyance or by operation of law, and may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession.”
As a general rule, a transfer of copyright ownership must be made in writing and it must
be signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or the owner’s duly authorized agent. 17 U.S.C. §§ 101, 201 (D), 204 (A).