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What is a Copyright Owner?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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A copyright owner is a person or company that owns a copyright on a piece of work and is the holder of that copyright for legal and licensing purposes. When there are a number of owners of a single copyright, then they will typically need to act together to uphold their rights as owner. Much like any other legal form of ownership, such as property ownership, a copyright may be sold in a business transaction or given to another person. A copyright owner is usually the person who creates a piece of artwork or artistic creation, though it may also be a company that pays a person to create such work.

Copyrights are the rights of ownership and legal protection regarding an original work of art or artistic creation. Such protection typically regards how others may use the work and the establishment of legal processes that may be used to prosecute others who infringe on the copyright of a work. A copyright owner is the person who legally owns the copyrighted work and who can therefore exercise his or her rights with regard to legal actions against someone who violates the protections of copyright law. This copyright owner may be a single individual, a company, or a group of people.

The most basic form of copyright owner is the person who actually creates a work of art or artistic creation. When someone writes a poem or novel, for example, the act of creating it creates a copyright on that work and the creator owns the copyright at that moment. This intellectual property is treated just like any other form of property and the owner may transfer possession of the copyright to someone else, or sell it just like any other property. Copyright protection typically extends for the lifetime of the copyright owner, plus 70 years past when he or she dies.

The copyright owner for a work of art that was created by someone who has died is typically his or her family members or a legal trust established to represent his or her work. A copyright owner could be the widow of a dead poet, for example, or a company that a writer created to represent her work after she died and ensure prolonged artistic integrity of related projects. When a work of art is created for hire by an artist working for another company, such as a freelance writer, then the company paying for the work typically owns the copyright. This can also extend to film companies that hire producers, directors, and other cast and crew members to make a movie.

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