The owner of the copyright controls the right to reproduce the work.  This is usually the person who created the work (the "author"), although the author may assign or sell the copyright to a work to another person, such as a publisher.

The owner of the copyright controls five exclusive rights.  Those rights are (1)the right to reproduce the work in copies; (2) to prepare derivative works; (3) to distribute copies by sale, rental, lease or loan; (4) to perform the work publicly; and (5) to publicly display the work.

All the rights to a work may be sold or transferred to another person or those rights may be divided and only some sold or transferred and the remaining rights retained by the author.  The different rights may be, among others, serial rights, foreign rights, republication rights, electronic transmission rights, movie rights, and paperback rights, among others.  The sale or retention of these rights can be quite complicated and should be carefully thought out before selling a work or signing away any rights to something you have created.  For example, an artist creates a painting containing a series of cute-looking puppies in it.  A person buys the painting and takes it home.  There is no documentation limiting what the buyer has purchased.  The buyer can argue that she now owns the right to reproduce the painting or any portion of the painting, including turning the cute puppies into fabric designs since she purchased the painting and all rights to it.

The bundle of rights born along with your creation should not be given away without thinking about what you are doing, or without consulting an attorney before you do.  For particular problems with "works for hire", go to "Works for Hire."  For particular problems with visual arts, go to "Copyright Law and Visual Works Of Art."

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