Copyright transfer agreement

A copyright transfer agreement is a legal document containing provisions for the conveyance of full or partial copyright from the rights owner to another party. It is similar to contracts signed between authors and publishers but does not normally involve the payment of remuneration or royalties.[1] Such agreements are a key element of subscription-based academic publishing,[2] and have been said to facilitate the handling of copyright-based permissions in print-only publishing.[3] In the age of electronic communication, the benefits of copyright transfer agreements have been questioned,[4] and while they remain the norm, open licenses as used in open access publishing have been established as an alternative.[5]


Copyright transfer agreements became common in the publishing business after the Copyright Act of 1976 in the United States and similar legislation in other countries[6] redefined copyright as accruing to the author from the moment of creation (rather than publication) of a work.[4] This required publishers to acquire copyrights from the author in order to sell the works or access to it, and written statements signed by the rights owner became necessary in order for the copyright transfer to be considered valid.[2][7]


The situation in which authors hold the copyright usually involves considerable effort in the form of correspondence and record keeping and often leads to unnecessary delays. Although this may appear to be trivial for a few requests, a good scholarly journal publishing exciting papers can expect several hundred requests per year; a task of this magnitude can become onerous. On the other hand, if the Journal holds the copyright, requests, value judgements, and permissions can be handled expeditiously to the satisfaction of all concerned.

— J. Lagowski (1982)[3]

Granting publishers the permission to copy, display and distribute the work is necessary for publishers to act as such, and copyright transfer agreements across a wide range of publishers have such provisions.[1][8] The reach of copyright transfer agreements can go well beyond that, and "[s]ome publishers require that, to the extent possible, copyright be transferred to them."[2] This means that no one, including the authors, can reuse text, tables, or figures in other publications without first getting permission from the new copyright owner.[9]

Copyright transfer agreements also ask that the authors confirm to actually own the copyright for all the materials pertaining to a given act of publishing, and that the item for which the copyright is to be transferred has not been previously published and is not under consideration to be published elsewhere,[9] to limit the frequency of duplicate publication and plagiarism.[1][10]


Critics have said that the copyright transfer agreement in commercial scholarly publishing is "as much about ensuring long–term asset management as it is about providing service to the academic community" because the practice seems to grant favor to the publisher in a way that does not obviously benefit the authors.[11] Copyright transfer agreements often conflict with self-archiving practices[12] or appear to do so due to ambiguous language.[13]

In 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Johnson v. Storix upheld a copyright transfer involving no written assignment. In that case, the Author, Anthony Johnson sold software as a sole proprietor and incorporated his company in 2003 as Storix, Inc. Eight years later he gave 60% share of the corporation to his employees, who later removed him from the company and claimed ownership of the copyrights. The court upheld a jury decision that Johnson had made an oral agreement to transfer the copyright to the corporation upon its formation based on an annual report he wrote and signed a year later stating that he had transferred “all assets” from his sole proprietorship. The jury rejected Johnson's claim he intended only to transfer the license to sell the software, and further decided that Johnson became a work for hire upon forming the corporation, thereby also forfeiting all rights to his derivative works. This is the first case in which a document, not itself a contract or agreement and containing no reference to the copyrights, was considered a “note or memorandum” of copyright transfer, and the first time a sole owner of a company was designated a work for hire for copyright ownership purposes. This serves as a lesson that a “writing” required by the Copyright Act need not necessarily be “clear”, but may contain ambiguous language which can be interpreted by course of dealing by third parties to the alleged transaction.

Other models

Copyright transfer agreements are one way to govern permissions based on copyright. Since the advent of digital publishing, various commentators have pointed out the benefits of author-retained copyright,[4][14] and publishers have started to implement it[15] using license agreements, wherein the author of the work retains copyright and gives the publisher the permission (exclusive or not) to reproduce and distribute the work. A third model is the so-called "browse-wrap" or "click-wrap" license model[16] that is becoming more and more popular in the form of the Creative Commons licenses: it allows anyone (including the publisher) to reproduce and distribute the work, with some possible restrictions. Creative Commons licenses are used by many open access journals.[17]

Author addenda

Copyright transfer agreements are usually prepared by the publisher, and some print journals include a copy of the statement in every issue they published.[18] If authors wish to deviate from the default phrasing – e.g., if they want to retain copyright or would not like to grant the publisher an exclusive right to publish – they can specify desired modifications, either by editing the document directly or by attaching an addendum to a copy of the default version. Publisher policies on the acceptance of such addenda vary, though. Some institutions offer instructions and assistance for staff in creating such addenda.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Gadd, E.; Oppenheim, C.; Probets, S. (2003). "RoMEO studies 4: An analysis of journal publishers' copyright agreements". Learned Publishing. 16 (4): 293. doi:10.1087/095315103322422053.
  2. ^ a b c Friedman, B. A. (1982). "Copyright from a permissions person's point of view". Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. 22 (2): 70–72. doi:10.1021/ci00034a001.
  3. ^ a b Lagowski, J. (1982). "Journal Copyright Problems: An Editor's View". Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. 22 (2): 72–73. doi:10.1021/ci00034a600.
  4. ^ a b c Bachrach, S.; Berry, R. S.; Blume, M.; Von Foerster, T.; Fowler, A.; Ginsparg, P.; Heller, S.; Kestner, N.; Odlyzko, A.; Okerson, A.; Wigington, R.; Moffat, A. (1998). "INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY:Who Should Own Scientific Papers?". Science. 281 (5382): 1459–1460. doi:10.1126/science.281.5382.1459. PMID 9750115.
  5. ^ Carroll, M. W. (2011). "Why Full Open Access Matters". PLoS Biology. 9 (11): e1001210. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001210. PMC 3226455. PMID 22140361.
  6. ^ "Transfer of Copyright". Journal of Applied Crystallography. 11: 63–64. 1978. doi:10.1107/S0021889878012753.
  7. ^ Section 204 of the Copyright Act of 1976
  8. ^ Gaeta, T. J. (1999). "Authorship: "Law" and Order". Academic Emergency Medicine. 6 (4): 297–301. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.1999.tb00393.x. PMID 10230981.
  9. ^ a b Berquist, T. H. (2009). "The Copyright Transfer Agreement: We Sign It, but Do We Understand It?". American Journal of Roentgenology. 192 (4): 849–851. doi:10.2214/AJR.09.2655. PMID 19320070.
  10. ^ Lee, I. S.; Spector, M. (2012). "Coping with copying and conflicts (of interest)". Biomedical Materials. 7 (1): 010201. doi:10.1088/1748-6041/7/1/010201. PMID 22287538.
  11. ^ Willinsky, John (4 November 2002). "Copyright Contradictions in Scholarly Publishing". First Monday. 7 (11). doi:10.5210/fm.v7i11.1006. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  12. ^ Gadd, E.; Oppenheim, C.; Probets, S. (2003). "RoMEO studies 1: The impact of copyright ownership on academic author self-archiving". Journal of Documentation. 59 (3): 243. doi:10.1108/00220410310698239.
  13. ^ Coleman, A. (2007). "Self-archiving and the Copyright Transfer Agreements of ISI-ranked library and information science journals". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 58 (2): 286–296. doi:10.1002/asi.20494.
  14. ^ Wilbanks, J. (2006). "Another reason for opening access to research". BMJ. 333 (7582): 1306–1308. doi:10.1136/sbmj.39063.730660.F7. PMC 1761190. PMID 17185718.
  15. ^ Watt, F. M.; Sever, R. (2004). "Non-profit publishing: Open access and the end of copyright transfer". Journal of Cell Science. 117 (Pt 1): 1. doi:10.1242/jcs.00873. PMID 14657267.
  16. ^ Burk, Dan L. (2007). "Intellectual Property in the Context of e-Science". Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 12 (2): 600–617. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00340.x.
  17. ^ Molloy, J. C. (2011). "The Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data Means Better Science". PLoS Biology. 9 (12): e1001195. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001195. PMC 3232214. PMID 22162946.
  18. ^ "Forthcoming papers". Applied Physics A: Solids and Surfaces. 59: A5. 1994. doi:10.1007/BF00348410.
  19. ^ "Author rights: using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article". SPARC. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Amend a Publishing Agreement". Harvard University Library. Retrieved 20 November 2013.

External links

Association for Computing Machinery

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is an international learned society for computing. It was founded in 1947, and is the world's largest scientific and educational computing society. The ACM is a non-profit professional membership group, with nearly 100,000 members as of 2019. Its headquarters are in New York City.The ACM is an umbrella organization for academic and scholarly interests in computer science. Its motto is "Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession".

Collective work (US)

A collective work in the Copyright law of the United States is a work that contains the works of several authors assembled and published into a collective whole.

The owner of the work has the property rights in the collective work, but the authors of the individual works may retain rights in their contributions.

Electronic reproduction of the whole work is allowed, but electronic reproduction of the individual works on their own, outside the context of the work as a whole, may constitute an infringement of copyright.

Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market

The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market 2016/0280(COD), also known as the EU Copyright Directive, is a proposed European Union (EU) directive intended to ensure "a well-functioning marketplace for the exploitation of works and other subject-matter... taking into account in particular digital and cross-border uses of protected content". It extends existing European Union copyright law and is a component of the EU's Digital Single Market project. First introduced by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs on 20 June 2018, a revised proposal was approved by the European Parliament on 12 September 2018. A final version resulting from negotiations during Trilogue discussions was presented to the European Parliament on 13 February 2019. If approved in Parliament between March 25th and 28th 2019, each of the EU's member countries would then be required to enact laws within 24 months to support the Directive.The European Council describe their key goals as protecting press publications, reducing the "value gap" between the profits made by Internet platforms and content creators, encouraging "collaboration" between these two groups, and creating copyright exceptions for text and data mining. The directive's specific proposals include giving press publishers direct copyright over use of their publications by Internet platforms such as online news aggregators (Article 11 also called the "link tax") and requiring websites who primarily host content posted by users to take "effective and proportionate" measures to prevent unauthorised postings of copyrighted content or be liable for their users' actions (Article 13 also called the "upload filter").Articles 11 and 13 have attracted widespread criticism and controversy from European and American parties, with fears that the directives would inhibit online expression by requiring websites to obtain licenses in order to link to news articles, and Article 13 would require use of content-matching technologies that cannot identify fair dealing such as parody. A petition has gathered more than 4.7 million signatures opposing the directive as of 18 February 2019, the most in history. Initial supporters of the directive, which included largely media groups and large publishers, reject these arguments with claims that a disinformation and astroturfing campaign was carried out by big Internet platforms. These large media groups and publishers, however, have had much greater contact between their lobbyists and MEPs than the technology industry. A group of major international media and music rights-holders initially supported the proposal, but flipped to opposing as it was finalized in February 2019. The International Federation of Journalists calls the current version "bad for journalism".


Eprints in Library and Information Science (E-LIS) is an international open access repository for academic papers in Library and Information Science (LIS). Over 12,000 papers have been archived to date. It is freely accessible, aligned with the Open Access (OA) movement and is a voluntary enterprise.

Embargo (academic publishing)

In academic publishing, an embargo is a period during which access to academic journals is not allowed to users who have not paid for access (or have access through their institution). The purpose of this is to ensure publishers have revenue to support their activities, although the impact of embargoes on publishers is hotly debated, with some studies finding no impact while publisher experience suggests otherwise. A 2012 survey of libraries by the Association of Learned, Professional, and Society Publishers on the likelihood of journal cancellations in cases where most of the content was made freely accessible after six months suggests there would be a major negative impact on subscriptions, but this result has been debated.

Various types exist:

A 'moving wall' is a fixed period of months or years.

A fixed date is a particular time point that does not change.

A current year (or other period) is setting a time point on Jan. 1 of the current year, so that all material earlier than that is available. Although fixed during the year, it will change each year.

Royalty payment

A royalty is a payment made by one party, the licensee or franchisee to another that owns a particular asset, the licensor or franchisor for the right to ongoing use of that asset. Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset or a fixed price per unit sold of an item of such, but there are also other modes and metrics of compensation. A royalty interest is the right to collect a stream of future royalty payments.A license agreement defines the terms under which a resource or property are licensed by one party to another, either without restriction or subject to a limitation on term, business or geographic territory, type of product, etc. License agreements can be regulated, particularly where a government is the resource owner, or they can be private contracts that follow a general structure. However, certain types of franchise agreements have comparable provisions.

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an international alliance of academic and research libraries developed by the Association of Research Libraries in 1998 which promotes open access to scholarship. The coalition currently includes some 800 institutions in North America, Europe, Japan, China and Australia.

Richard Johnson served as director 1998-2005. Heather Joseph became executive director in 2005.

Transfer agreement

A or the "transfer agreement" can refer to:

Material transfer agreement, contract governing the transfer of tangible research materials

Copyright transfer agreement, contract for the conveyance of full or partial copyright

Haavara Agreement, 1933 agreement between Nazi Germany and Zionist German Jews concerning emigration

The Transfer Agreement, book by Edwin Black about the Haavara Agreement

Work for hire

In the copyright law of the United States, a work made for hire (work for hire or WFH) is a work subject to copyright that is created by an employee as part of his or her job, or some limited types of works for which all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation. Work for hire is a statutorily defined term (17 U.S.C. § 101), so a work for hire is not created merely because parties to an agreement state that the work is a work for hire. It is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author. In some countries, this is known as corporate authorship. The entity serving as an employer may be a corporation or other legal entity, an organization, or an individual.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.