The Flexibility of a Copyright

One of the great powers that comes with a copyright is that you can break up the rights that come with it in any number of ways.

By statute, you are granted the exclusive rights to reproduce the work; prepare derivative works; distribute copies; perform the work publicly; and display the work publicly.

Each of those rights may be broken down further, or shared among multiple people. For instance, you could grant multiple parties the non-exclusive right to display an artistic work publicly. Or grant one person the exclusive right to public display for anywhere east of the Mississippi, and another person exclusive rights west of the Mississippi.

You can then break those rights up in even more nuanced ways. For instance, the right to create derivative works can be broken up into film rights, book rights, musical rights, stage plays, television, and the list goes on.

Those rights can similarly be broken up geographically (less likely in this instance) or based on time. For instance, giving a studio the film rights for 20 years, or that they retain the film rights as long as they begin production on a movie using those rights every 5 years. If they do not begin production, rights revert back to the creator.

All of these variations come with different contracts, promises, and common compensation structures, but perhaps more than any other form of intellectual property, the copyright is incredibly flexible in how the creator can leverage their rights.