For reasons of clarity and proof, authors of a work who wish to assign their rights in this work should always conclude a written contract (signed by both parties).
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3.4.1 Assignment of rights by contract
Authors who wish to assign all or part of their rights to third parties must sign a contract. The contract should set out the exact content and scope of the assignment of rights, as Art. 16 para. 2 CopA states that only the agreed rights are assigned. In practice, it is often difficult to establish this exactly, either because the content of the contract was not written down or because, for example, one or both contracting parties did not formulate their intentions clearly enough in the contract. Such a contract does not have to be concluded in a specific form, e.g. a written contract. Oral agreements are also valid, as are tacit assignments of rights.
If it is still unclear which rights an author wished to assign and to what extent the author wanted to assign these rights, the following interpretative aids can help:
- No moral right of the author: even if the contract does not make it sufficiently clear which copyrights should be assigned, the moral right of the author is not included. This is excluded from the assignment of rights. As a result, the right of first publication (Art. 9 para. 2 CopA) and the right of recognition of authorship (Art. 9 para. 1 CopA) in particular cannot be part of the subject of the contract. However, when publishing a work for the first time, an author can make use of the support of mediators.
- Statutory provision by Art. 16 para. 2 CopA: according to this provision, the assignment of copyrights only includes other partial rights if this was agreed. For example, if the contract only mentions the assignment of the right of reproduction (Art. 10 para. 2 (a) CopA), the work may not also be distributed (Art. 10 para. 2 (b) CopA).
For example, if a journalist wants to publish an essay in the print edition of a daily newspaper, this is the purpose of the contract and the journalist assigns only the right to reproduce and distribute in a printed newspaper. The contract purpose does not include the publication of the essay in an online edition of the newspaper.
Authors who wish to assign all or part of their rights to third parties must sign a contract. The contract should set out the exact content and scope of the assignment of rights, because only the rights that were agreed are assigned. For reasons of clarity and proof, authors should always conclude a written contract (signed by both parties).