Copyright agreement: concept, terms, sample

A copyright agreement is a type of license agreement. It allows the author to commercialize his work by transferring his rights to a third party (licensee) for the agreed amount. Before concluding such a document, it is necessary to understand that only works (published and not) that exist in an objective form: text, music, video, image can be the object of copyright. Ideas, facts, discoveries are not protected by copyright.

Varieties of copyright transfer agreements

A classification sign, on the basis of which types of such documents are distinguished, can serve:

  • type of work (literary, musical, audiovisual, visual art - painting, sculpture);
  • the state of the work (a contract for ordering a work or transferring rights to a finished work to the licensee);
  • way of exploitation (publishing, screenwriting, staging agreements or agreements on public performance, on art order)
Creative process

Samples of copyright agreements known from legal practice usually contain elements of all these types.

Document structure

The copyright agreement must contain certain provisions, in the absence of which it will be considered invalid. These include:

  1. The scope of rights granted, that is, the types of exploitation of the work that are permitted to the licensee.
  2. Forms of using the work, that is, actions taken by the second party in commercial interests.
  3. Type of license: non-exclusive allows the author to conclude other contracts or use the work for his own purposes, as well as the exclusive one, under which the author is deprived of these rights for a certain period of time.
  4. The amount of remuneration.
  5. Duration of the agreement (without specifying this position, the author, on his own initiative, can terminate the contract three years after its conclusion with a written notification of the licensee).
  6. The territory of the document.
  7. The contract conclusion form (written or oral).
The artist paints a picture

When concluding a copyright transfer agreement, it should be borne in mind that by signing it, the author transfers all his rights to the work to the licensee and does not have the right to use it in the future.

Persons entitled to conclude a contract

First of all, the author himself and his heirs enter this category. In the second case, you must provide a certificate of inheritance (by law or testament). This document should clearly state that copyright has been fully inherited.

The work may be owned by other copyright holders, which may be both individuals and legal entities. Such a situation is possible if a copyright transfer agreement was previously concluded, as well as if the rights to an official work are considered: an article in an encyclopedia, a scientific collection, or a periodical. In this case, before drawing up a new document, a chain of all previously concluded agreements is traced.

Manuscript creation

Separately, the issue is solved with co-authors. In Russia, an author’s contract for a jointly created work is concluded separately with each participant in the creative process.

Property rights

The list of exclusive copyrights is established by the Civil Code of the Russian Federation (Article 1270). These include the right to reproduce, distribute the work (sale, lease), import copies, the ability to present their work in public (to perform, read, demonstrate) and announce it to the media. If desired, the author has the right to translate his work into another language (or give permission for duplication, if it comes to the film), make corrections before and after the moment of publication and post his work in whole or in part on the Internet for free access.

Transfer of property rights

As follows from the concept of copyright agreement, the main purpose of its conclusion is the transfer or acquisition of copyright. Articles of the document should clearly state the opportunities that open to the licensee from the moment of signing.

Creating an Audiovisual Work

At the moment, the most popular way to distribute a work is to publish it on the Internet. If the copyright agreement does not include a clause on the right to digitize a work (if it is a picture or a manuscript) and its subsequent recording in the computer's memory, then it is forbidden to distribute it through sites.

The right to reproduce is exercised in different ways, depending on the type of work. It can mean photocopying, reprinting, making new copies and much more. The copyright agreement must include an explicit explanation of which of these methods a licensee can use.

Alienation of property rights

In Russian legal practice, this type of agreement has appeared relatively recently. It involves the transfer by the author of his exclusive right to the licensee in full. Two types of such agreements are established:

  • consensual (valid from the moment of conclusion);
  • real (valid from the moment the author transfers the material carrier to the acquirer).

When concluding a copyright transfer agreement, the creator of the work reserves the right to use personal non-property rights. They are guaranteed by article 1267 of the Civil Code and include the right to be considered an author, duplication and distribution of a work under the name of its creator or his chosen pseudonym, as well as the inviolability of the structure, content and essence of the work. Below is a sample copyright contract.

copyright contract

If the object of the contract of alienation was created by several persons in cooperation and this is confirmed, then the document must be signed by all co-authors. If at least one of them does not recognize the provisions of the contract, property rights cannot be alienated in favor of anyone.

Sample contract part 2

Contract time

This paragraph of the document to be concluded is of utmost importance. The legislation of the Russian Federation urges that the information contained in it be clear and reliable. It is the time period for acquiring rights to a work that becomes the most frequent cause for litigation.

One of the reasons is the use of property rights after the agreed period. Another source of problems is that a contract (especially in publishing) can be concluded for a work that has not yet been created. In this case, the document spells out the time allotted to the participants to fulfill their contractual obligations, including the reserve period for making corrections to the work.


The term of the copyright agreement is not always set immediately. Sometimes, the licensee and the author take time to figure out whether they need to continue cooperation. But in order to avoid misunderstandings, it is better to stipulate a term immediately, especially since the current legislation provides for the possibility of concluding a contract for a six-month period.

Urgent termination

In a situation where the author or the licensee discovers that one of the parties violates the provisions stipulated in the contract, they can unilaterally terminate the agreement. In addition, if the cooperation did not work out, and both sides came to this conclusion, they can also break the contract. They must come to such a decision together.

Amount and form of receiving remuneration

As a rule, the remuneration in the copyright agreement is determined as a percentage of the income received by the licensee for the use of the property rights of the author. The copyright holder can receive income from his work in one of two ways:

  1. Royalty - percentage deductions from the income received by the licensee for the operation of a work paid in the frequency established by the agreement. The interest rate may vary depending on the current economic situation. The amount received by the copyright holder should bring him real benefit.
  2. A lump-sum payment is paid in the case when the nature of the work does not allow to establish its mass use in order to profit. It represents the amount fixed in the contract.
Create a piece of music

Copyright remuneration may not necessarily be paid to the author himself. All persons who transfer property rights under the agreement (copyright holders, heirs) can count on it.

Minimum Reward Rate

According to the law, the threshold amount of royalties paid as a lump-sum payment must correspond to the minimum wage. Payments exceeding this amount are determined based on economic forecasts of the profit from the operation of the work. By agreement, it can be paid either at a time or in installments.

As an example of the definition of royalties, one can cite the decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of May 29, 1998 No. 5241, which determines the amount of royalties to filmmakers. This document sets the amount in the range from 0.5 to 7% of the income received by the licensee, depending on the contribution made to the production.

So, the lower threshold of this amount is provided for those authors whose work is part of a popular science, animation, feature or documentary film. Scriptwriters, composers, costume designers can claim 5.5% of the income received. The highest amount paid to the director.

The territory of the contract

Determining the spatial scope of the use of the rights acquired by the licensee is especially important when it comes to transferring the right to distribute and use computer programs or databases. The author has the right to prohibit their use on the territory of a foreign state or, conversely, to agree on exploitation abroad.

Sculptor at work

If the territory of the copyright agreement is not separately specified in the document, the licensee may use the acquired rights only within the Russian Federation.

Termination of an agreement

Under ordinary conditions, an author’s contract is null and void upon expiration of the period specified in it. However, there may be situations where the parties decide to terminate the agreement earlier. This may be due to the fact that the licensee has lost interest in using the work, especially if it is not in demand among the population. Another option for early termination of the contract is the expiration of copyright and the transfer of the work into the public domain.

The form of termination of the contract is determined by the parties. It may be a novation - replacing the old agreement with a new one, compensation may be paid. The procedure for these actions in the legislation is not specifically stipulated. It should be prepared that upon early termination of the contract there are obligations to settle property consequences, that is, one of the parties is obliged to return the royalties and reimburse the other party for losses incurred.


All Articles