Licensing Law



Licensing law relates to the authorized use of a copyrighted work. Whenever any original work or art, literature, or music is fixed in a tangible medium (i.e., written down, painted, recorded, etc.) it is automatically copyrighted in the name of the creator. The creator now owns certain intangible property rights in the work called intellectual property rights. Although there are mechanisms to register this copyright, these are not mandatory to creating the copyright. A copyright means that nobody else may reproduce the work or make derivative works (unless they fall under “fair use” exceptions) without first obtaining a license.

Licenses are granted by the owner of intellectual property, usually in exchange for a fee, to authorize another person to use that work. Examples of licensed uses of copyrighted works include republishing a photograph, using someone's song on a TV show or movie soundtrack, or republishing a portion of someone's book or news article. In all of these events, the owner of the copyrighted work can allow someone else to use the intellectual property, but retains the ultimate ownership of the original work through the application of licensing law. Licenses can dictate the number of copies made, where the work will be used, whether it can be re-used, and most other issues that could come up with the use of the intellectual property.

Work for Hire

Licenses are different than “work for hire,” where an employer holds the copyright, not the actual creator of the intellectual property. In “work for hire,” although the creator has no licensing rights, s/he does retain “moral rights” to their work, including the right of attribution. However, they are not otherwise able to re-sell the work or license its use to anyone other than the employer for whom it was created.

Fair Use

“Fair use” is an exception to the exclusive rights held by the copyright owner in which a user does not have to obtain a license to the intellectual property. Examples of fair use include using copyrighted works for educational purposes, making comments and criticisms of the work as part of a news report or published criticism, and, perhaps most famously, parody. Simply using a copyrighted work for noncommercial or nonprofit purposes does not qualify as fair use.

Public Domain

Another type of work that is not subject to licensing is that intellectual property that has fallen into the public domain. Copyright ownership expires after the creator's death (generally 50 to 70 years after death in most countries, though this number has been enlarged many times in the United States to protect famous properties).

Common Licensing Agreements

There are also some common licensing agreements that have come into popular use in the modern digital age. Examples include the Creative Commons license popularized by Wikipedia, the MIT License, the BSD License, the Apache License, and the GNU General Public License. Generally, these agreements allow liberal use of the intellectual properties they cover, often free of charge, but are used to retain at least minimal control over the works to technically keep them from falling into the public domain.

For more information on licensing laws, check the resources below. You may also be able to find an experienced attorney in your area under the “Law Firms” tab, above.

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Articles on HG.org Related to Licensing Law

  • Unlicensed Software - Is It Risky for Your Business
    For a legitimate business or entity, it is important to have commercial software that is registered so that further complications do not arise from illegally downloaded or unlicensed software. The only time having unlicensed software may be exempt from business difficulties is if the company or owner has developed the application and is using it for this or her organization.
  • Selling or Licensing a Recipe
    When attempting to build a company or business through intellectual property, it is important to know if the invention or process should be initiated by the individual, sold or traded for possible better benefits in the future. It is also important to have a lawyer versed in these matters available to ensure the rights of the owner are protected throughout the procedure.
  • What Is the Connection between Fair Use and Intellectual Property?
    Fair use and intellectual property have an important correlation in that fair use only exists to ensure that violations of intellectual property do not occur. The copyright protections keep others from copying work, but there are certain stipulations called fair use that permit others to use portions of the book or other written creation depending on the actions of the individual.
  • Defending an Intellectual Property Claim Against Obviousness
    When intellectual property is in danger from various claims, it is important to protect it from the numerous issues that may arise. This may mean litigating against the government for claims against obviousness and other complications, and in doing so, it may be possible to ensure that trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets are safe from these issues.
  • Reasons Intellectual Property Is Imperative for Your Business
    Whether the owner of a business has created or own intellectual property, the use of it may be crucial to revenue and imperative to utilize as trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets become more important to the commerce realm. This means a lawyer should be hired to protect these items and keep the owner from committing violations.
  • Role of an Intellectual Property Lawyer in Today’s World
    Intellectual property is the backbone for many business owners, and this means numerous lawyers are hired to assist with company matters. The role of an intellectual property lawyer may be different since the advent of technology increases and computers revolutionizing the business world, and this means a heightened awareness of what these items are and how they affect the company realm.
  • Registering and Defending Your IP
    Intellectual property most often needs both the standard and extra protection from theft, reproduction or those that would build upon the previous work. This is for multiple types of these works to include what a trademark safeguards. Defending the intellectual property from possible violations generally takes registration, a good lawyer and ensuring the information is used properly.
  • The Important of Maintaining Trademarks
    Trademarks are important to businesses that use them for a variety of reasons. However, the trademark employed by a company often becomes the brand that is remembered by the public. This is critical in transactions between the organization and consumers.
  • Intellectual Property Disputes and an Expert Witness’ Examination
    Intellectual property is owned by the person that designed, created or invented the item. However, there are many cases of infringement on the legal protections obtained to safeguard the object from public use, competitors and reproduction. If someone has been violating the patent, copyright, trade secret or trademark, a lawyer versed in this form of law is needed.
  • Design Patents: What They Can and Cannot Do
    Getting a patent is often useful and important for an inventor of a creation. However, what type of this intellectual property protection to obtain is often debated by the person applying. There are two main categories of these, and they affect different aspect of the patented work.
  • All Intellectual Property Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Intellectual Property including: copyright, domain names, licensing law, patents, trade secrets and trademark.

Licensing Law - US

  • ABA - Licensing - Intellectual Property Committee

    The Intellectual Property Committee focuses on antitrust issues that arise from the acquisition, licensing, and enforcement of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property, as well as developments in patent, copyright, and intellectual property law from the standpoint of competition policy. Although we focus primarily on antitrust issues in the United States, the globalization of both antitrust law and intellectual property rights has led the Committee to expand its geographic horizons, focusing on policy and counseling challenges that arise throughout the world.

  • Chapter 2 - Copyright Ownership and Transfer

    In the case of any work other than a work made for hire, the exclusive or nonexclusive grant of a transfer or license of copyright or of any right under a copyright, executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978, otherwise than by will, is subject to termination under certain conditions.

  • Copyright Act

    One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

  • Copyright Compulsory License Improvement Act

    H.R. 768 attacks the heart of the problems surrounding the satellite compulsory copyright license. Specifically, by creating a new, permanent license for the retransmission of local network signals by satellite to subscribers who reside in the local markets of those signals, the bill protects the integrity of the exclusivity rights of copyright owners/licensors and local broadcasters while affording satellite carriers a means of providing network service to all their subscribers.

  • Fairness in Musical Licensing Act

    The Fairness in Music Licensing Act increased the number of bars and restaurants that were exempted from needing a public performance license to play music or television during business hours.

  • Licensing Division in the Copyright Office

    The Licensing Division in the Copyright Office administers the compulsory and statutory licenses in the Copyright Act (title 17 of the U.S. Code). The division collects royalty fees from cable operators for retransmitting television and radio broadcasts (section 111), from satellite carriers for retransmitting “superstation” and network signals (section 119), and from importers or manufacturers for distributing digital audio recording products.

  • Licensing Federally Owned Inventions - Patent Laws

    No Federal agency shall grant any license under a patent or patent application on a federally owned invention unless the person requesting the license has supplied the agency with a plan for development and/or marketing of the invention, except that any such plan may be treated by the Federal agency as commercial and financial information obtained from a person and privileged and confidential and not subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5 of the United States Code.

  • USPTO - Patent Assignments and Licenses

    A patent is personal property and may be sold to others or mortgaged; it may be bequeathed by a will, and it may pass to the heirs of a deceased patentee. The patent law provides for the transfer or sale of a patent, or of an application for patent, by an instrument in writing. Such an instrument is referred to as an assignment and may transfer the entire interest in the patent. The assignee, when the patent is assigned to him or her, becomes the owner of the patent and has the same rights that the original patentee had.

Organizations Related to Licensing Law

  • American Intellectual Property Law Association

    Founded in 1897, AIPLA is a national bar association constituted primarily of lawyers in private and corporate practice, in government service, and in the academic community. AIPLA represents a wide and diverse spectrum of individuals, companies and institutions involved directly or indirectly in the practice of patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, and unfair competition law, as well as other fields of law affecting intellectual property. Our members represent both owners and users of intellectual property.

  • The Authors Guild

    The Authors Guild has consistently argued that authors should be compensated for electronic publication of their work, just as they are paid for print publication – whether the works are published as electronic books, reprinted on the Internet, included in a library database or made available in any other electronic format.

  • U.S. Copyright Office

    Welcome to the U.S. Copyright Office. We in the Copyright Office are proud to be part of a long tradition of promoting progress of the arts and protection for the works of authors. We are also excited about the reengineering of our operations. Our goal is to make major improvements in our public services and a key part of this initiative is providing the opportunity to register your works online via our website.

  • United States Patent and Trademark Office

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the Executive branch "promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries." The USPTO registers trademarks based on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3).

  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

    The World Intellectual Property Organization (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.

Publications Related to Licensing Law

  • Intellectual Property Magazine

    IPM is designed to: * Keep in-house counsel around the world well briefed on what's happening across the intellectual property spectrum; * Deliver practical advice and tools for developing and executing strategy to protect intellectual property AND to maximise its value; * Provide the business perspective on global IP news and legal developments; and * Build better understanding between external counsel, in-house legal teams, brand and patent owners/managers and accounting staff worldwide.

  • Licensing Law Blog

    Provides information regarding intellectual property, copyright, trademarks and patent licensing laws.

  • USTPO - Licensing and Review

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has an office called Licensing and Review that performs certain functions, such as clearance of subject matter, to ensure compliance with the Patent Secrecy Act. The following are frequently asked questions related to Licensing and Review and foreign filing licenses.




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