Selling, transferring or licensing copyright

Copyright is a form of property so it can be dealt with in similar ways to other forms of property. It can also be an asset and dealt with in accordance with financial regulations. Copyright can be sold (assigned), transferred or licensed.

Copyright is divisible – you can license or assign some or all of your rights. For example, you can restrict the scope of a licence or assignment so that the licensee or assignee only has the right to distribute the copyright material electronically, but not as a hard copy publication.

You can also limit the assignment or licence of some or all of your rights by:

  • territory (e.g. Queensland only)
  • time (e.g. 3 years)
  • type of use (e.g. only print in hard copy format and in a particular publication).

All copyright material may be licensed. This means that the external person/organisation seeking to use copyright material (the licensee) is entitled to deal with the copyright material in the ways covered by the licence, for the duration of the licence.

A copyright licence may be:

  • exclusive – the external person/organisation (licensee) can exercise the rights granted under the licence to the exclusion of all others, including the copyright owner. As this is similar to granting the licensee a monopoly, you should ensure that any exclusive licence complies with relevant guidelines
  • non-exclusive – the external person/organisation (licensee) can use the copyright material in the way outlined in the licence agreement. However, the copyright owner may also continue to use the copyright material and can grant other external people/organisations a non-exclusive licence to use the same copyright material
  • perpetual – the licence continues for the full term of the copyright
  • of limited duration – the licence continues for the period of time specified in the licence agreement
  • worldwide – the copyright may be used anywhere in the world
  • limited to a geographical area – the copyright may only be used in a specified area (e.g. Australia).

Also consider...

  • Visit the Australian Copyright Council – a non-profit organisation partly funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. It supports a creative Australia through providing information and advice on copyright.
  • Read how the copyright function is with the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department, and copyright information is provided on that website.