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:
- Principle of assignment limited to purpose: if the contract does not make it absolutely clear which rights should be assigned, the purpose for which the contract was concluded must be considered. Thus, only those (partial) rights needed to achieve the purpose of the contract are considered to have been assigned. If there is any doubt, an author does not grant any additional rights.
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.