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How to Monetize One’s Copyright

By Mayashree Acharya


Updated on: Nov 29th, 2021


8 min read

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A copyright is an exclusive intellectual property right given to a person by the Registrar of Copyrights (Registrar) under the Copyright Act, 1957 (Act) in India. The copyright gives the authors exclusive rights over their intellectual properties. The author is the owner or creator of intellectual property, such as musical, literary, dramatic, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings. 

Copyright protects the rights of the creators against infringement or unauthorised usage of their original works, sound recordings or cinematograph films. The copyright safeguards the rights of the authors over their creations, thereby recognising and rewarding creativity. 

Rights of a Copyright Author

The authors of the copyrightable works not only get an exclusive right of usage of the copyrightable work but also has the following rights over their work as per the Act: 

  • Right to reproduce the work. 
  • Right to give copies of the work to the public.
  • Right to perform the work or communicate the work to the public.
  • Right to make cinematograph films or sound recordings relating to the work.
  • Right to make translations of the work.
  • Right to make adaptations of the work.

Thus, the author/owner of the copyrightable work can share, sell, transfer the work along with the copyright for an amount and monetise from it. The author can also issue the license, assign or rent the copyright to a third party for economic gain. 

Ways to Monetise a Copyright

Following are the ways through which authors can monetise from the copyright of their works in India:

1. Sell Copyrightable Work

The authors can themselves use the work for their own livelihood by selling their copyrightable works. 

For example: A painter can organise an exhibition of his/her own paintings and earn money by selling the painting work along with its copyright. The buyer will get the copyright of the painting. Thus, the buyer can file an infringement case when the painting is copied by any third person and get compensation for the same. 

Similarly, a singer can sell his/her song to a sound recording company for an amount (sale price). The sound recording company will get an exclusive right over the copyrightable song. They will get the same right that an author has under the Act and can use, sell, grant license or assign the song to a third party. They can recover compensation when a third party reproduces it without their permission.

2. Copyright Licensing

The owners of the copyrightable works can give an interest in their copyrights through a licence in writing. The copyright owners grant the license of their copyright in the form of licensing agreement. The license holder will get a right to reproduce or use the copyrightable work in public or events as per the licensing agreement by paying royalties to the author.

The following must be mentioned in the licensing agreement:

  • The specific work that the license holder can use and reproduce to prevent confusion regarding the work.
  • Specify the author’s rights to the license holder (right to reproduce, sell, distribute, etc.). 
  • Mention the duration of the license agreement. The license holder can use the copyrightable work only until the term of the agreement. If the license holder uses the work beyond the duration of the agreement, the author can sue the license holder and get compensation. 
  • Define the territorial extent where the license holder has the right to use the work.
  • Fix the royalty for permitting the license holder to use the work.
  • Determine the terms of revision, extension, and termination of the agreement.

Licensing enables the authors of the copyrightable works to charge licensing fees (royalties) for the usage of their work. Selling the copyright ensures one-time payment for the sale, but the author of the copyrightable work cannot obtain shares in the future profits and endeavours of the work.

3. Assignment of Copyright

The owner of the copyrightable work can assign copyright of the work to any person either wholly, partially, or subject to some limitations for any part or whole term of the copyright. The authors can assign their copyright through a legally binding document, i.e. assignment agreement/deed. 

Assignment of copyright transfers the ownership rights in the copyright to the third party (assignee). However, a copyright license only gives permission to the third party (licensee) to do certain things. The assignee will get the ownership of the copyright subject to the limitations, duration and conditions imposed in the assignment deed. But, the licensee will get only the legal authorisation to do something relating to the copyrightable work.

The following must be mentioned in the assignment agreement/deed:

  • Specific work and rights assigned to the third party.
  • Duration of the assignment agreement. The assignment is valid only for the term of the assignment deed. 
  • Fix the royalty payable to the author or legal heirs of the author for the duration of the assignment.
  • Determine the terms of revision, extension or termination of the assignment deed.

When the assignee does not exercise the rights assigned to him/her within one year from the date of assignment, the assignment will be deemed to have lapsed. The duration of the assignment is deemed to be for five years from the date of assignment when the duration is not mentioned in the deed.

4. Digital Marketing of Copyright Work

An author of copyright can market the copyrightable work online and put it to use in the public forum.  Marketing the intellectual property online helps the authors find buyers interested in buying the work’s copyrights.

Social media platforms like Youtube, GitHub and Soundcloud allow users to publish their original content, and the authors can earn money depending on the engagement rates from their content. All these platforms have a strict copyright policy and protect the copyrightable work while the authors can gain from it by putting it out to the public. 

The authors can even earn from gaining subscriptions for their works on the platform or by asking viewers to take membership of the channel for premium content. They can also earn from ad revenue on these platforms. Ad revenue is the revenue the authors/owners of the channels get by allowing advertisements to play in the beginning or middle of the video or audio track.

Royalty For Copyrightable Works

Licensing and assigning copyright allows the author/owner of the copyrightable work to charge a license or assignment fee. The license or assignment fee is known as a royalty. The authors receive a royalty from the licensee or assignee for granting them rights to use the copyrightable work. It is the legitimate fee for continued usage of the intellectual property, i.e. copyright by a profit-making enterprise.

Valuation of royalty cannot be the same for every copyrightable work. It depends upon various factors like uniqueness of the work, the value of hourly compensation for creation, demand, the market value of similar work and expenses incurred. 

The parties to the license or assignment agreement can select the mode of royalty calculation depending on their commercial requirements. The licensee or assignee can pay a royalty to the author in any of the following manners:

  • Single up-front payment.
  • Predetermined amount paid periodically.
  • A charge based on units of sales or manufacture. 

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are solely for information purposes. No attorney-client relationship is created when you access or use the site or the materials. The information presented on this site does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

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About the Author

I am an advocate by profession and have a keen interest in writing. I write articles in various categories, from legal, business, personal finance, and investments to government schemes. I put words in a simplified manner and write easy-to-understand articles. Read more


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