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What does a Copyright Agent do?

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  • Written By: Lori Spencer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
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  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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A copyright agent is contracted to pursue revenue-generating opportunities for creators and owners of copyrighted works. The agent also is responsible for fielding usage requests, negotiation and preparation of licensing deals for their clients. The agent's tasks often include ensuring compliance by licensees and litigating unauthorized use of copyrighted works, so this job is often handled by attorneys who specialize in intellectual property law. A copyright agent does need not be an attorney, however.

In order to protect his or her client's interests, a copyright agent must stay on top of ever-changing copyright legislation. Ideally, a copyright agent should also be diligent in tracking royalties as well as unlicensed uses of the client's copyrighted work. When violations are discovered, it is the copyright agent who most often initiates litigation for copyright infringement and recovers payment for the client.

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Copyright agents also work directly with clients to design a strategy of how the client's copyrighted material can be most effectively used. Marketing and advertising campaigns, brand-name licensing and control of a creator's name or likeness are usually handled by the copyright agent. For example, if a corporation wanted to use a popular musical artist's song to sell a product in an advertising campaign, the company would first contact the artist's copyright agent for permission. A licensing fee for the song would then be negotiated between the copyright agent and the corporation or ad agency, often involving payments of future royalties every time the commercial is rebroadcast. The copyright agent and/or the copyright owner's attorney should ensure that the proper contracts are signed by all parties and that terms of the licensing agreement are enforced.

An increasing trend in more recent years has been the use of copyright agents by the estates of famous deceased persons. This is to prevent the exploitation of the deceased celebrity's works or right of publicity. It also ensures that the creator's legal heirs are not cheated out of money to which they might be entitled. A few well-known examples involve the control of John Lennon's songs, Elvis Presley's image and the licensing of products based on the comic strip "Peanuts" by Charles Schulz.

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