3.4.3 Licence agreement

If authors do not wish to give up their copyrights by assigning them to other natural persons, they can sign a contract (licence agreement) that simply gives others the right to use (licences) their work. The users (licensees) do not acquire any exclusive rights – they just obtain the consent of the author to use the latter’s rights in a specific way. Licensees do not assume the legal position of an author (in contrast to the assignment of copyrights). In particular, the acquired right to use the work may not be assigned to third parties, unless a sub-licence is permitted. Authors may also grant additional licences to their work to other persons, unless a licensee has been given an exclusive licence.

Types of licences:

  • Exclusive licence and sub-licence

Authors and users can agree that the licence gives the user an exclusive right to use the work, and that neither the author nor any other person may use the work (exclusive licence). Authors and users can agree in a contract that the user may in turn give rights to use the work to additional persons (sub-licences).

  • Statutory licence
  • Compulsory licence


3.4.3-2 How are licences granted?

Licences are generally granted under a contractual agreement (licence agreement) between the licensor (author or an owner of rights) and the user (licensee). The contract determines the rights of use and their scope granted to the licensee by the licensor. Basically, the licensor grants the licensee a manufacturing or distribution licence and/or a licence for use. The usage options can also be restricted; for example, by number (e.g. only a limited number of performances), by time (e.g. a film may only be shown in a cinema for a limited period) or by area (cf. Hilty, Urheberrecht, 2011, 267 et seq.).