Can you bequeath the copyright of a written work, and the future royalties from the same written work, to different people?

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Can you bequeath the copyright of a written work, and the future royalties from the same written work, to different people?

Does it matter if the written work is published or unpublished? Say I die with an unpublished manuscript entitled “XYZ”, and my will bequeaths all my copyrights to my friend Joe. Can my will also state that any royalties earned from the publication of “XYZ” go to my daughter Jane? Or does Joe, as the copyright holder, get all the royalties by default? What if “XYZ” was published before my death? What if I establish a testamentary trust with Jane as the beneficiary and Joe as the trustee? Can a Trust own a copyright?

Asked on July 1, 2013 under Estate Planning, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Royalties can be separated from the other elements of copyright, though you may wish to consider: if Joe does not have the right to any royalties, but otherwise has the complete right to control and publish the work, why would he bother doing the work/incurring the costs of publication so that Jane profits?

It does not matter whether the work was published or not published at the time of your death--you can separate the different elements of copyright, including royalties.

A trust can own intellectual property, including copyright.


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