2017 US Code
Title 17 - Copyrights
Chapter 2 - Copyright Ownership and Transfer
Sec. 202 - Ownership of copyright as distinct from ownership of material object

Download PDF
Citation 17 U.S.C. § 202 (2017)
Section Name §202. Ownership of copyright as distinct from ownership of material object
Section Text

Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object.

Source Credit

(Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2568.)


The principle restated in section 202 is a fundamental and important one: that copyright ownership and ownership of a material object in which the copyrighted work is embodied are entirely separate things. Thus, transfer of a material object does not of itself carry any rights under the copyright, and this includes transfer of the copy or phonorecord—the original manuscript, the photographic negative, the unique painting or statue, the master tape recording, etc.—in which the work was first fixed. Conversely, transfer of a copyright does not necessarily require the conveyance of any material object.

As a result of the interaction of this section and the provisions of section 204(a) and 301, the bill would change a common law doctrine exemplified by the decision in Pushman v. New York Graphic Society, Inc., 287 N.Y. 302, 39 N.E.2d 249 (1942). Under that doctrine, authors or artists are generally presumed to transfer common law literary property rights when they sell their manuscript or work of art, unless those rights are specifically reserved. This presumption would be reversed under the bill, since a specific written conveyance of rights would be required in order for a sale of any material object to carry with it a transfer of copyright.

Publication Title United States Code, 2012 Edition, Supplement 5, Title 17 - COPYRIGHTS
Category Bills and Statutes
Collection United States Code
SuDoc Class Number Y 1.2/5:
Contained Within Title 17 - COPYRIGHTS
Sec. 202 - Ownership of copyright as distinct from ownership of material object
Contains section 202
Date 2017
Laws In Effect As Of Date January 12, 2018
Positive Law Yes
Disposition standard
Statutes at Large References 90 Stat. 2568
Public Law References Public Law 94-553
Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. United States may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.