Commons:Transfer of copyright
Copyright may be transferred from the initial creator of a work in a number of ways. This page aims to clarify how Commons handles some common situations where this happens.
Transfer through inheritance
When the author of a work dies, the rights may be passed to the author's legal heirs (usually for a limited period). The heirs have the same rights as the author to freely license the work.
Copyright tags include
Transfer through employment
In some situations and countries, works created by employees in the course of their employment are the copyright of their employer. An important example is employees of the US Federal Government, as all works of the US Federal Government are in the public domain.
Copyright tags include
Transfer by contract
In the case of works-for-hire, copyright may be transferred to the customer (depending on the contract and/or local laws). See Wikilegal/Authorship and Copyright Ownership too.
Transfer through ownership of physical item
In general, in modern copyright law the transfer of ownership of a physical item, be it the original work or a copy, does not involve the transfer of ownership of the copyright, unless this is explicitly stated as part of the transfer. Exceptions include transfer through inheritance, where the copyright in inherited works is often not explicitly stated separate from the work.
For certain types of work, this type of copyright transfer used to be more common, and some still exist. In Italy for example, transfer of a photographic negative implies transfer of the economic right absent an explicit agreement (Article 89). In the U.S., prior to the 1976 Copyright Act requiring most transfers to be in writing, some cases similarly ruled copyright was transferred along with the physical item (see en:Pushman v. New York Graphic Society). Even today, for the common-law copyright associated with pre-1972 recordings, in many states the copyright is deemed to be owned by the possessor of the master recording.
In some countries, unpublished out-of-copyright works of deceased authors may give rise to "publication right", usually dependent on legitimate access to (but not necessarily ownership of) the unpublished work.
Transfer through publication right
Copyright in unpublished works may, in some countries, give rise to "publication right". Whilst technically not a transfer (the previous copyright has expired), it is mentioned here as a situation where copyright is given to a non-creator.