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Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:26 am
I have been offered the chance to buy a book business which claims to own the copyright on five books. I asked them how they acquired the copyright. This was their reply. The copyright is owned by, the author. He died in 2003 and passed the business down to me including the copyright. According to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 literacy copyright stays with that person for 70 years. As the business was passed to me I own the copyright.
Do they own the copyright?
Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:10 pm
The law says that copyright can be transferred in the following ways:
90 Assignment and licences.
(1) Copyright is transmissible by assignment, by testamentary disposition or by operation of law, as personal or moveable property.
(2) An assignment or other transmission of copyright may be partial, that is, limited so as to apply—
- (a) to one or more, but not all, of the things the copyright owner has the exclusive right to do;
(b) to part, but not the whole, of the period for which the copyright is to subsist.
(3) An assignment of copyright is not effective unless it is in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor.
(4) A licence granted by a copyright owner is binding on every successor in title to his interest in the copyright, except a purchaser in good faith for valuable consideration and without notice (actual or constructive) of the licence or a person deriving title from such a purchaser; and references in this Part to doing anything with, or without, the licence of the copyright owner shall be construed accordingly.
So if the author passed on his rights on his death, this would have had to have been through his will or if he died intestate, then the owner of the business would need to be the author's legal heir under the law of succession. Either way there will be documentary evidence to support the claim the owner is making. But that would mean that the current owner of the company owns the copyright personally, and not his company.
Copyright would not be an asset of the business unless the author made a deed of assignment during his lifetime which again must be done in writing to be legal.
And even if the company does legally own the author's copyright, as subsection (4) above explains, there may be existing licences which may prevent you or anyone else exploiting the copyright for a period of time or in a particular territory.
You should get a solicitor to carry out due diligence on this claim before parting with any money.
Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:24 am
Hi. Thank you for your input, I will definitely take your advice.