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Transferability (of rights)

The feature of copyrights that makes it possible for one rightsholder to transfer ownership of the rights to another person.

One of the basic characteristics of property is that it can be transferred to others, whether by sale, gift, or something else. Copyrights are no different. While a creator initially holds copyright in his or her creative work, those rights can be transferred to another person or entity, who can then transfer them again, etc. For example, recording artists frequently transfer the copyright in their songs to a records company. Michael Jackson famously owned the rights to all of the Beatles’ music.

The various rights that “copyright” subsumes can be transferred as a block, but more often are transferred or sold one at a time, some times to different people.


The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

TRIPS is an international agreement on property rights that came into effect in 1995.

The World Trade Organization’s website describes TRIPS as “to date, the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property.” and states that:

“The areas of intellectual property that it covers are: copyright and related rights (i.e. the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations); trademarks including service marks; geographical indications including appellations of origin; industrial designs; patents including the protection of new varieties of plants; the layout-designs of integrated circuits; and undisclosed information including trade secrets and test data.”

The three main features of TRIPS are its sections on standards, enforcement, and dispute settlement. In a way, it is an umbrella agreement, since it requires that its participants agree to and uphold the tenets of several other agreements, treaties and conventions. These are the main conventions of the WIPO, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Convention) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic in their most recent versions.

See also:

  • Berne Convention
  • WIPO

Other resources:



The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO was founded in 1945. According to its website it “ functions as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues.

The Universal Copyright Convention of 1952 was adopted under UNESCO’s auspices.

Other Resources

United Kingdom’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers.
According to its website, "CILIP forms a community of around 36,000 people engaged in library and information work, of whom approximately 21,000 are CILIP members and about 15,000 are regular customers of CILIP Enterprises. CILIP speaks out on behalf of the profession to the media, government and decision  makers. CILIP provides practical support for members throughout their entire careers, helpingthem with their academic education, professional qualifications, job hunting and continuing professional development.”

See also:


Other Resources



WIPO is the World Intellectual Property Organization.

According to its website, WIPO "is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest. WIPO was established by the WIPO Convention in 1967 with a mandate from its Member States to promote the protection of IP throughout the world through cooperation among states and in collaboration with other international organizations. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The Director General is Francis Gurry. WIPO administers 24 different treaties, including the WIPO Convention, thirteen of which are intellectual property treaties.

Other resources:

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT)

A WIPO treaty that came into effect in 2002, explicitly addressing the rights of performers and producers of sound recordings.

WIPO's website states that:

“The Treaty deals with intellectual property rights of two kinds of beneficiaries: (i) performers (actors, singers, musicians, etc.), and (ii) producers of phonograms (the persons or legal entities who or which take the initiative and have the responsibility for the fixation of the sounds).

They are dealt with in the same instrument because most of the rights granted by the Treaty to performers are rights connected with their fixed, purely aural performances (which are the subject matter of phonograms).

As far as performers are concerned, the Treaty grants performers four kinds of economic rights in their performances fixed in phonograms (not in audiovisual fixations, such as motion pictures): (i) the right of reproduction, (ii) the right of distribution, (iii) the right of rental, and (iv) the right of making available."

See also:

  • Fixation
  • Rights

Other resources:

Work For Hire

A creative work that the creator has made at someone else’s request, usually for pay.

Work for hire is a concept from U.S. copyright law, and exists in a few others as well. For example, if a person commissions a sculpture from an artist, and provides very specific requirements as to materials and appearance, the sculpture will probably be a work for hire, although the ultimate determination is fact specific.

The concept serves to clear up any confusion that might result when an employee creates a copyrightable work in the course of their employment. Under the “works made for hire” doctrine, the employer holds the copyright in such a situation.

It is this doctrine that ensures that, for example, the hundreds of people who work on the production of a motion picture do not have any claim to the copyright.

However, the nature of the employer/employee relationship can be complex and difficult to define, especially when it exists only for the duration of the work’s creation, or the work is created in an educational context.

Further complicating things, since the Berne Convention separately recognizes economic and moral rights, even a creator who has made a work for hire may still possess moral rights in that work.

See also:

  • Neighboring Rights
  • Transferability of Rights
  • Academic Exception

Other resources:

WTO – World Trade Organization

The WTO is an organization devoted to the rules of international trade.

According to its website, the WTO's "main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible."

The WTO is responsible for, among other things, the TRIPS agreement, which was the first time and place that copyright issues became a focus of an international trade agreement.

See also:


Other resources:

“Actual Knowledge”

Having direct knowledge (as opposed to merely having reason to believe) that copyright infringement is occurring.

Some copyright laws require web hosts to remove content from their servers if they posses "actual knowledge" that the content infringes copyright. Under such laws the hosts may become liable if they do not remove the content.

For example, Section 512(c) of the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act reads:

“(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users. (1) In general. A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, if the service provider (A) (i) does not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing;

See also:

  • DMCA
  • Safe Harbors

Other resources:


“Browsewrap” is a slang term for a contract governing access to or use of content on a website that does not require the website user to click on a button or otherwise take action to expressly manifest consent to the terms of the agreemen. Typically, the Internet user is considered to have agreed to the terms of the browsewrap agreement by accessing or “browsing” the website.

The terms of a browsewrap agreement governing access to a website are not always prominently displayed to the Internet user, and instead are often listed on a separate page that can only be accessed by clicking a link at the bottom of the screen. For this reason, some commentators question whether browsewrap agreements create enforceable contracts.

See also:

  • Clickwrap

Other Resources

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