Articles > Intellectual Property

What is a Copyright Licensing Agreement?

January 7, 2021   Daniel KatzPhilip Evangelou

A copyright licensing agreement is a contract formed between a licensor and a licensee, whereby the licensee is permitted to use the licensor’s creative works. Additionally, it is important to note that the licensee does not own the creative works once the contract is formed. This article will explain when these agreements are needed, and the provisions that should be considered. 

When do I Need a Copyright License Agreement?

Firstly, it is important to seperate copyright licensing from other forms of intellectual property (IP) licensing. With that, here is a quick overview of these forms:

  • Trademark licensing: A trademark is a service mark that represents your business. Examples include logos, names, and slogans. With this, trademark licensing agreements allow trademark owners to grant licensees the ability to use their service marks. 
  • Patent licensing: A patent is an invention. Generally, this includes innovative devices, substances and methods. In a patent licensing agreement, licensees are able to use these inventions with the consent of its owner.
  • Trade secret licensing: A trade secret is a secretive form of commercial information. In this, trade secret licensing agreements (often referred to as ‘non-disclosure agreements’) provide the licensee with that trade secret, in that they must maintain its confidentiality.

Following on, copyright is the legal right to publish and distribute one’s creative work. For instance, an individual may use someone else’s work, and proceed to publish it as their own. If this is done without an agreement, that individual has likely breached copyright law. Therefore, a copyright licensing agreement allows licensees to use these creative works. 

Elements of a Copyright Licensing Agreement

Here are some elements of a copyright licensing agreement that you should know:

  • Jurisdiction: States or territories where the IP can be used.
  • Copyright notice
  • Time period for the right to use the IP
  • Credit provided to the licensor
  • Payment clauses
  • Type of license: An exclusive license is one where the licensee is the only party that can use the IP. On the other hand, a non-exclusive license is one where the licensor is licensing their IP to several parties. 
  • Prohibition clauses: This is generally in relation to prohibiting the alteration of the licensor’s work.  
  • Alternative dispute resolution clause
  • Termination clauses

To Sum Up

Copyright licensing agreements are common in creative industries. With this, if you are looking to use another party’s IP, it is important to understand the different agreements available. If you do decide to use a copyright licensing agreement, be sure to understand the provisions above.

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About Daniel Katz

Daniel KatzDaniel is a legal intern at OpenLegal, placed in our legal content team. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Technology Sydney. Daniel's interest lies in economics and media/startup law.

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.