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If you have established creative work within your field, others will likely want to use it. Luckily, creators and owners have rights when it comes to their copyright protected material. However, if you want to permit others to use your work, licencing and assigning are methods for you to do so. The two have quite different outcomes, so you want to make sure that you are using these tools correctly, or else you could be giving too much of your work to others. This article will explain the purposes of both licencing and assigning when it comes to copyright. It will also set out four mistakes to avoid when transferring your copyright protected material.


Copyright is an intellectual property tool that covers a wide range of creative works. The categories of works protected by copyright include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • the typographical layout of published editions; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

If you have created any work that falls under these categories, then copyright protection will apply to it automatically. Copyright grants the owner exclusive control over the copyright protected work and legal protection should anyone else infringe on your rights. The ability to licence or assign your copyright is one of those rights.

Copyright duration varies depending on the type of work it is protecting. After copyright ends, the work is in the public domain.

If you wish, you can mark any of your copyrighted material with the © symbol. This will ensure that others know that your work is protected.


A licence agreement is a contract between the copyright owner and someone who wants to use their copyright protected material. It allows the copyright owner to grant permission to another without losing their ownership rights.

When writing a licence agreement, you can craft it in a way that suits both your and the other parties’ needs. For example, you may wish to include that the other party can use only certain parts of your copyrighted work, or that they can use the work only in certain ways. It is also a good idea to outline the compensation you want to receive for the other party’s use of your work.


An assignment is the complete transfer of the copyright protected material and rights to another. It is essentially a sales contract to sell your material and ownership rights to another person. Assignments, like any other contract, are legally binding. So, once completed, you will no longer have ownership rights over your copyrighted material, and the other party will gain these ownership rights.

Mistakes to Avoid When Transferring Your Copyright

Below are four common mistakes to avoid when transferring your copyright through licence agreements or assignment.

1. Choosing the Wrong Agreement 

When choosing between licencing or assigning your copyrighted work, there are factors to consider to ensure that you choose the best one for your circumstances. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a legally binding outcome that does not suit you. You should consider which tool will give you the most financial value. Consider whether it would better suit you to have an ongoing income from a licence agreement or one large deposit from an assignment. Critically, you should consider whether you want to maintain ownership over your copyright, as assignment will give away these ownership rights.

2. Forgetting Moral Rights 

If you are the creator of the copyright protected material, you will have moral rights regarding that material regardless of who the owner ends up being. Even if you decide on an assignment, you maintain these moral rights. Therefore, you can rely on them regardless of the type of agreement you select.

3. Using the Wrong Type of Licence

There are different types of licence agreements. They are:

  • exclusive use, meaning that the copyright owner will not use the material during the time period of the licence agreement;
  • non-exclusive use, meaning that the copyright owner and another can use the copyrighted material simultaneously; and
  • sole use, meaning you agree that only one licence agreement will exist at a time.

Make sure the type of licence is clear in your agreement so that neither party is confused about their rights.

4. Writing Your Assignment Incorrectly

 For an assignment to be considered legally valid, it must include:

  • details about the new owner;
  • details about the material being transferred; and
  • the signatures of both parties.

Without these, your assignment will not be valid.

Key Takeaways

Licencing and assigning your copyright protected material can benefit both you and those you are working with. It is essential to understand the difference between the two to apply the best one for your situation. Make sure you are diligent in crafting licence agreements and assignments, and hire a lawyer to ensure that everything goes smoothly. If you need further assistance with transferring your copyright, contact LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are moral rights?

Moral rights apply to copyright creators regardless of who owns the copyright. They include the right:
• to be attributed as the creator;
• of integrity; and 
• against derogatory treatment.

How much does copyright cost?

Copyright protection is free and applies automatically once you create your work.

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