Thursday, May 19, 2022

Can You Assign a Copyright Via E-mail Exchanges?

Photographer, laffy4k. Via everystockphoto.

According to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the answer is “yes.” Although the case, Vergara Hermosilla v. The Coca-Cola Co., concerns written material and not visual art, it’s still pertinent to visual artists producing work for others and working in any media.

The Coca-Cola case concerns the commissioning of lyrics, where the lyricist alleged that he had maintained his copyright. Coca-Cola disagreed. We’re giving a recap here, but basically the trial court determined that an email exchange between the parties was a fully formed assignment of the copyright from Vergara to Coca-Cola.

[B]ecause the record establishes without dispute that Vergara assigned his copyright interest to Universal…. Vergara stated in his email on March 4, 2009, that his “only demand” to assign his copyright interest was that he receive credit as the adapter and producer. Puig [A representative for Coca-Cola] “unconditionally accepted” that condition in his email on March 5, 2009, in which he told Vergara to “count on the credits on the track.” Puig’s acceptance on behalf of Universal was effective to create a contract with Vergara because it “match[ed] the terms of [his] offer.”  The two emails were “so connected with each other that they may be fairly said to constitute a complete contract.”

Pamela Chestek gives a great recap of this case over at Property, intangible.


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