What is the Difference Between Licensing and Assigning the Copyright?

   Granting a copyright license means maintaining the copyright but giving another party permission to use either a portion or all of your copyright rights. For example, an author will grant a copyright license to their publisher to publish the work in print while retaining the right to do anything else with said work. The terms of the license should be stated in the license. This includes how long the license applies, the exclusiveness, territorial restrictions if any, whether or not there is any compensation for use, and all other terms and conditions that the parties involved may be willing to impose.

   When a copyright is assigned, the original owner of the rights has given up their rights to the copyrighted material. The party in which a copyright has been assigned to is the new owner. An assignment is like selling a copyright, only that they often do not involve any compensation for the copyrighted material per se. For example, an employer may want his employees to sign a copyright assignment agreement stating that all work created during their employment will belong to the employer. Employees receive salaries for the work they do, but not necessarily for the creation of a particular product. It can be a work-in-progress or the parties may not even know in advance whether anything will come out of their job function. Another common use of assignment agreements is when a business is being sold. The purchaser may pay a certain price for the business as a whole and if copyrightable materials are a part of the business, they can be assigned rather than purchased separately. These are certainly not exclusive uses of assignment agreements but they are the most common. Such agreements can be used in other transactions as well when it is more practicable to transfer the right by assignment rather than by a buy-sell agreement. 

   Should the original author try to publish or produce work with relations to a copyrighted material after having assigned it to another party, it will be considered an infringement. The only way to reacquire the rights is to buy it back from the new owner.  

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