A licence is a legal document (a contract) in which the copyright owner (often called the “licensor”) allows another person (often called the “licensee”) to do something in relation to copyright material. Without this permission, the licensee would not legally be able to do any of the permitted acts. However, a licence does not change the ownership of copyright.
To license an artwork you must be the copyright owner or have a licence from the copyright owner to pass on licences to others. Normally the artist who creates an artwork owns the copyright in it and can decide to licence all or part of the copyright in his/her work.
There are four types of licences:
- Exclusive licence: the licensor authorises the licensee, and no one else, to do certain things. In this case, the licensor is excluded from exercising the rights granted to the licensee under the licence. This type of licence must be written.
- Sole licence: the licensor authorises the licensee, and no other licensees, to do certain things. In this case, the licensor can still exercise the rights granted under the licence.
- Non-exclusive licence: the licensor authorises the licensee to reproduce, publish or communicate the work to the public. In this case, the licensor keeps his/her rights and can continue to use his/her work, and can also grant further licences to others. This type of licence can be oral. However, it is always better to have a written agreement.
- Implied licence: the licence is implied from the circumstances. For example, there is an implied licence that the newspaper can edit and publish the letter when someone sends a letter to the editor of a newspaper.