The original ownership of the copyright begins with the author of the work. The author does not need to give the work a copyright orally and not register copyright in the U.S. Copyright Office to be copyrighted. Registration has certain advantages, including the possibility of taking legal action for copyright infringement and recovering penalties and actual damages. The co-authors of a joint work are the co-owners of the copyright. Everyone has the same interest in copyright, unless they establish an agreement that determines the interests and percentage of each co-author in the income of the work. The author of a work may transfer all or part of his copyright by a signed written agreement. If the contract does not transfer the entire copyright, it must indicate which “exclusive rights” are transferred. These exclusive rights include the rights to reproduce a work by all means, the rights to broadcast, the right to create adaptations or derivative works, and the rights to represent or exhibit a work.
For example, an author may agree to grant first-publication rights to a magazine or grant exclusive publishing rights to a book publisher. The author of a dramatic work may also transfer the public performance rights of a copyrighted work. The transfer or licensing of these exclusive rights gives the author more flexibility over how he or she can achieve commercial benefits from his work. If there is no time limit in a copyright transfer contract, the author or his heirs may terminate a transfer of copyright 35-40 years after the contract is signed. In a collective work such as a news anthology or a published photo collection, the copyright of each article belongs first to the author of the contribution. Unless contributors expressly accept a partial or total transfer of their copyright, the copyright holder of the collective work has only “the right to reproduce and distribute contributions in the context of this particular collective work as well as any subsequent revisions and collections of the same series.” The author of a creative work owns the copyright to this work at the time when it is “inscribed in tangible form”, whether it is written on paper, stored in a computer file, recorded in audio or forced to other readable medium.