Transfer of Copyright
Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the
transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights
conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent. Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a
written agreement.

A copyright may also be conveyed by operation of law and may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property
by the applicable laws of intestate succession.

Copyright is a personal property right, and it is subject to the various state laws and regulations that govern the
ownership, inheritance, or transfer of personal property as well as terms of contracts or conduct of business. For
information about relevant state laws, consult an attorney.

Transfers of copyright are normally made by contract. The Copyright Office does not have any forms for such
transfers. The law does provide for the recordation in the Copyright Office of transfers of copyright ownership.
Although recordation is not required to make a valid transfer between the parties, it does provide certain legal
advantages and may be required to validate the transfer as against third parties. For information on recordation of
transfers and other documents related to copyright, request Circular 12Recordation of Transfers and Other

Termination of Transfers
Under the previous law, the copyright in a work reverted to the author, if living, or if the author was not living, to other
specified beneficiaries, provided a renewal claim was registered in the 28th year of the original term.* The present
law drops the renewal feature except for works already in the first term of statutory protection when the present law
took effect. Instead, the present law permits termination of a grant of rights after 35 years under certain conditions
by serving written notice on the transferee within specified time limits. For works already under statutory copyright

For works already under statutory copyright protection before 1978, the present law provides a similar right of
termination covering the newly added years that extended the former maximum term of the copyright from 56 to 95
years. For further information, request Circulars 15a and 15t.

*Note: The copyright in works eligible for renewal on or after June 26, 1992, will vest in the name of the renewal
claimant on the effective date of any renewal registration made during the 28th year of the original term. Otherwise,
the renewal copyright will vest in the party entitled to claim renewal as of December 31st of the 28th year.


International Copyright Protection
There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout
the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws
of that country. However, most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these
conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. For further information
and a list of countries that maintain copyright relations with the United States, request Circular 38a, International
Copyright Relations of the United States.


Copyright Registration
In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a
particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a
requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright
owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:

Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity
of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory
damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of
actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection
against the importation of infringing copies. For additional information, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
website at www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import. Click on “Intellectual Property Rights.”
Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright. Unlike the law before 1978, when a work has
been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to make another registration when the work becomes
published, although the copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.


§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use38
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by
reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as
criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research,
is not an infringement of copyright.

§ 113. Scope of exclusive rights in pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works45
(a) Subject to the provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of this section, the exclusive right to reproduce a copyrighted
pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work in copies under section 106, includes the right to reproduce the work in or on
any kind of article, whether useful or otherwise.

(b) This title does not afford, to the owner of copyright in a work that portrays a useful article as such, any greater or
lesser rights with respect to the making, distribution, or display of the useful article so portrayed than those afforded
to such works under the law, whether title 17 or the common law or statutes of a State, in effect on December 31,
1977, as held applicable and construed by a court in an action brought under this title.

(c) In the case of a work lawfully reproduced in useful articles that have been offered for sale or other distribution to
the public, copyright does not include any right to prevent the making, distribution, or display of pictures or
photographs of such articles in connection with advertisements or commentaries related to the distribution or display
of such articles, or in connection with news reports.