Ownership and transfer

Eligible owners

Who is the owner of a copyrighted work?

Any natural and legal person can be a holder of copyright. However, moral rights are not vested in legal persons.

Employee and contractor work

May an employer own a copyrighted work made by an employee?

Although the Copyright Act includes a chapter on the transfer of copyright, rules governing the relationship between the employer and employee or independent contractor are few. That said, one specific rule should be observed: Section 40a presumes that copyright in a computer program created by an employee as a part of his or her tasks or following instructions by the employer is transferred to the employer.

The legal principles on the transfer of copyright with regard to employees and commissioned work was discussed by a legislative commission (SOU 2010:24). The commission forwarded a proposal for the codification and definition in the Copyright Act of the ‘rule of thumb’, a principle developed in Swedish case law. The commission suggested that an employer would be given a limited but exclusive right to use works created in the framework of employment relationships. However, to date, the government has not forwarded any proposal for statutory amendments in that regard.

May a hiring party own a copyrighted work made by an independent contractor?

See the above question “May an employer own a copyrighted work made by an employee?”

Joint and collective ownership

May a copyrighted work be co-owned?

Section 6 of the Copyright Act states that copyright will belong to the authors jointly, if a work has two or more authors and where the contributions do not constitute independent works.

Each author may dispose of his or her rights and bring an action for infringement. However, the use of a copyrighted work is subject to mutual consent between the joint holders.

Transfer of rights

May rights be transferred?

Under Swedish law, copyright is regarded as property. The copyright holder is entitled to freedom of contract and copyright can, with an exception for moral rights, be transferred, in whole or in part, or licensed (see Section 27 of the Copyright Act). Under Section 28, the person to whom a copyright has been transferred may not alter the work or transfer the copyright to others, unless otherwise agreed. One exception from this principle exists where the copyright forms part of a business activity; in that case, the applicable party (eg, an employer) may transfer the copyright together with the business activity.

No formalities are required to secure the legal effect of a transfer or an assignment.


May rights be licensed?

Yes. Section 28 of the Copyright Act states that in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the person to whom a copyright has been transferred, which includes licences, may not alter the work or license the copyright to others.

In addition, the act includes statutory provisions on, for example, film and book publishing contracts. Mention should also be made of the extended effect of collective licences (see Chapter 3a of the Copyright Act).

Are there compulsory licences? What are they?

Yes, the Copyright Act includes a number of provisions on compulsory licenses, including Section 18 on the making of composite works for use in educational activities and Section 47 on the use of sound recordings for public performances (neighbouring right).

Are licences administered by performing rights societies? How?

There are several collective licensing bodies operating in Sweden – for example:

  • the Visual Copyright Society;
  • Bonus Copyright Access;
  • the Swedish performing Rights Society; and
  • the Swedish Artists and Musicians Interest Organisation.

The Patent and Registration Office is in the process of compiling an exhaustive list of all registered collective licensing bodies.

The collective licensing bodies activities are regulated in the Act on Collective Management of Copyright (Swedish Books of Statute 2016:977). The Patent and Registration Office is entrusted to monitor collective licensing bodies and register new ones.


Is there any provision for the termination of transfers of rights?

No. The provisions on transfers of rights in Sections 27 to 42 of the Copyright Act are non-compulsory. General principles of contract law apply, along with specific principles on the construction of agreements in the field of copyright. Obviously, the language of a transfer is vital as to the scope and limitations of an assignment.


Can documents evidencing transfers and other transactions be recorded with a government agency?

No. A copyright assignment agreement may be notarised, although there is no statutory requirement in this regard.