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Copyright Law Explained

Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Licenses

The exclusive rights of a copyright owner may be licensed on an exclusive or nonexclusive basis. A copyright exclusive license is one in which ownership in one or more rights is transferred by the copyright owner. A copyright nonexclusive license occurs when the owner retains ownership of the copyright and/or may license the same right to others.

There are several differences between exclusive and nonexclusive licenses pertaining to licensees ability to sue and their written requirements.

Ability to Sue

An exclusive licensee of one or more of the exclusive right is considered to be the owner of those rights. As the owner, the exclusive licensee can sue for infringement of those rights. On the other hand, a nonexclusive licensee is not considered to be a copyright owner and thus cannot sue for any infringement of the copyright in the work by others.

Writing Requirement

Exclusive licenses must be in writing, but nonexclusive licenses do not have to be in writing.

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