The concept of “transmission of copyright” pertains to the passing of copyright ownership due to specific circumstances, most commonly upon the death of the original copyright holder.

Unlike active transfers, where rights are willingly assigned or licensed, transmission is often a more passive process, dictated by legal provisions or testamentary dispositions.

This ensures that the intellectual property rights of a deceased creator continue to be protected and can benefit heirs or designated beneficiaries.

Understanding the nuances of copyright transmission is crucial, as it dictates how creative works are managed, used, and monetised by succeeding generations or entities.

Transmission of Copyright in Unpublished Works through Testamentary Disposition

When a person passes away and leaves behind a will, they might bequeath the manuscript of a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work to someone.

If this work has not been published before the person’s death, the bequest is not just about the physical manuscript.

It also includes the copyright of the work, assuming the deceased was the copyright owner at the time of their passing.

However, this automatic transfer of copyright through the will applies unless there’s a specific indication in the will or any additional documents (like a codicil) that suggests otherwise.

To clarify, the term “manuscript” in this context doesn’t just refer to handwritten documents. It means the original document that contains the work, regardless of how it was created.

In simpler terms, if someone inherits an unpublished work through a will, they typically also inherit the copyright, unless the will states otherwise.

This ensures that the rights to the work are preserved and can be managed by the inheritor.

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Transmission of Copyright vs Transfer of copyright

The terms transmission and transfer of copyright ownership, while closely related, have distinct meanings and implications within the realm of intellectual property law.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two:

  1. Nature of Action:
    • Transmission of Copyright: This typically refers to the automatic passing of copyright ownership due to specific circumstances, such as the death of the original copyright holder. It’s a more passive process, often dictated by legal provisions or testamentary dispositions.
    • Transfer of Copyright: This is an active process where the copyright owner willingly assigns or licenses their rights to another party, either temporarily or permanently.
  2. Duration:
    • Transmission: The duration is often for the remainder of the copyright term unless otherwise specified in legal provisions.
    • Transfer: The duration can vary based on the agreement between parties. It can be permanent (assignment) or temporary (licensing).
  3. Documentation:
    • Transmission: It’s usually dictated by wills, legal provisions, or inheritance laws.
    • Transfer: It’s typically documented through written agreements or contracts detailing the terms of the transfer.
  4. Reason:
    • Transmission: Common reasons include the death of the copyright holder or legal mandates.
    • Transfer: Reasons can range from financial benefits, collaborations, or strategic business decisions.
  5. Revocation:
    • Transmission: Generally, once the copyright is transmitted due to legal provisions, it cannot be revoked unless challenged legally.
    • Transfer: Depending on the terms of the agreement, transfers, especially licenses, can often be revoked or renegotiated.
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In essence, while both transmission and transfer deal with the change in ownership or rights associated with copyrighted material, the circumstances, processes, and implications of each differ.

Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone navigating the complexities of intellectual property rights.

Suggested Reading: copyright assignment

Relinquishment of Copyright

  • Relinquishment is the voluntary act of an author giving up all or specific rights associated with their copyrighted work. This can be done by notifying the Registrar of Copyrights or through a public notice.
  • Once the relinquishment notice is given, the specified rights cease to exist from its date. The Registrar of Copyrights then publishes this notice in the Official Gazette and on the official website of the Copyright Office, ensuring public transparency.
  • Importantly, even if an author relinquishes their copyright, it doesn’t invalidate any rights that others might have had before the relinquishment. This means pre-existing licenses or agreements remain unaffected.


The transmission of copyright, as defined within copyright law, plays a pivotal role in the intricate world of intellectual property.

It serves as the legal mechanism that seamlessly transfers exclusive rights from one entity to another, often due to life events or testamentary dispositions.

The advantages of copyright transmission are multifaceted, facilitating smooth transitions of ownership, safeguarding valuable works of creativity, and ensuring the continued operation of law in the realm of intellectual property.

Whether for the purpose of preserving family legacies, enabling collaborative projects, or addressing copyright issues, understanding and navigating copyright transmission is a crucial endeavor.

With legal representatives and copyright lawyers by one’s side, the rightful owner of copyright can control and wield the power of exclusive rights, ensuring the protection and dissemination of their intellectual creations for generations to come.


How to transfer copyright in India?

Transfers of copyright ownership can happenĀ  through various methods:

Copyright Licensing: This involves granting specific copyright rights to a third party through a formal Licensing Agreement.
Copyright Assignment: The original copyright owner can transfer their rights to another party, allowing them control over the copyrighted work.
Copyright Transmission: In cases where the creator passes away before a work’s publication, copyright can be transferred as per the deceased’s will, ensuring protection and potential publication.
Copyright Relinquishment: Copyright owners can choose to voluntarily relinquish some or all rights to their work. This requires a formal process, including notifying the Registrar of Copyrights.

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These methods enable the lawful transfer of copyright in India, providing flexibility to creators and copyright holders.

What is the procedure for copyright assignment in India?

Copyright assignment in India involves a written agreement between the copyright holder (assignor) and the party acquiring the rights (copyright assignee).

This copyright assignment agreement can cover the complete or partial transfer of copyright, specifying the duration of the assignment. It’s important to note that assignments can be made for both existing and future works.

However, if the assignment pertains to copyright in a future work, it will only take effect when that work is created.

Can copyright in a cinematograph film be transformed?

Yes, copyright in a cinematograph film can be transformed to another party through legal means. This transfer typically involves a formal agreement and may include valuable consideration, such as payment or other assets.

What is the termination of transfers of copyright?

The termination of transfers of copyright, also known as copyright termination or reversion, is a legal process that allows the original copyright owner or their heirs to regain ownership and control over the copyright-protected work after a certain period. This process is typically governed by copyright laws and regulations and varies from country to country.

What is the transmission of copyright?

“Transmission” commonly denotes the transfer of rights that occurs upon the death of the copyright holder, frequently through inheritance or testamentary disposition. It is a relatively passive process in which rights are conveyed based on circumstances, such as the demise of the original rights holder.