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Transfer, assignment and licensing

Transfer and assignment

What rules, restrictions and procedures govern the transfer and assignment of copyright? Are any formalities required to secure the legal effect of the transfer or assignment?

Section 90 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 confirms that copyright is transferable by assignment, testamentary disposition or by operation of law, as personal or movable property. Copyright can be assigned in whole or part, but to be effective, any such assignment must be in writing and signed by or on behalf of the assignor.

Pursuant to Section 91(1), it is also possible to assign (whether partially or in whole) the rights to future copyright in a work.


What rules, restrictions and procedures govern copyright licensing?

No formality requirements govern copyright licences. Therefore, a licence need not be in writing; it can be oral or implied into a contract.

Are there any special provisions governing sub-licensing?

Unlike trademarks and patents, there are no statutory provisions regarding a licensee’s right to sub-licence a work protected by copyright. However, following authority established in the context of patent licensing in Allen & Hanbury Ltd's (Salbutamol) Patent ([1987] RPC 327), it appears that in the absence of any provision to the contrary in the head licence, a licensee has no power to grant sub-licences.

What collective licensing bodies operate in your jurisdiction and how are their activities regulated?

The following collective licensing bodies operate in the United Kingdom:

  • PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Limited;
  • EOS, the broadcasting rights agency;
  • the Copyright Licensing Agency;
  • the Publishers’ Licensing Services;
  • the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society;
  • NLA Media Access;
  • the British Equity Collecting Society;
  • the Design and Artists’ Copyright Society;
  • the Artists Collecting Society;
  • the Picture Industry Collecting Society for Effective Licensing;
  • the Educational Recording Agency;
  • the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation;
  • Filmbank Media;
  • Christian Copyright Licensing International;
  • Soundreef;
  • Independent Music Publishers’ E-Licensing;
  • the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society;
  • RadioPro; and
  • Printed Music Licensing Ltd.  

The conduct of UK collective management organisations are governed by the Collective Management of Copyright (EU Directive) Regulations 2016.

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