Copyright is a piece of personal property, and as such, is not really
different from owning a book or a car or a painting -- you can
transfer ownership to whoever you please, under pretty much whatever
conditions one chooses, as long as the transaction is legal.
HOWEVER, it is useful when transferring copyright from one owner to
another to have the transfer clearly noted in writing, and perhaps
even registered at the Copyright Office (assuming the initial
copyright is held in the US).
Let's look over some basics, based on guidance from the US Copyright Office:
Copyright Basics--TRANSFER OF COPYRIGHT
...Copyright is a personal property right, and it is subject to the
various state laws and regulations that govern the ownership,
inheritance, or transfer of personal property as well as terms of
contracts or conduct of business.
...Transfers of copyright are normally made by contract
...Although recordation is not required to make a valid transfer
between the parties, it does provide certain legal advantages and may
be required to validate the transfer as against third parties. For
information on recordation of transfers and other documents related to
copyright, request Circular 12, "Recordation of Transfers and Other
[Circular 12 is here: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ12.pdf ]
Are copyrights transferable?
Yes. Like any other property, all or part of the rights in a work may
be transferred by the owner to another.
In essence, what they are saying here is that whatever transfer
arrangements you make between the original copyright holder, and any
subsequent holders of the copyright, are absolutely fine, but the
arrangements are best done through written agreements. And, it
doesn't hurt -- and probably helps -- to register the transfer at the
So, the answer to your question is Yes...you can certainly arrange
with the original author to assume ownership of the copyright, and you
could then transfer that copyright to subsequent owners.
However, you may prefer an alternative, which would be to use a
Creative Commons license, rather than a formal transfer.
A license generally grants permission for a user to make use of a
work, even though the original author retains formal copyright
ownership. Licenses can be as broad or as narrow as the parties to
the license agree to make them.
Creative Commons licenses are finding increasing use on the web as a
way for individuals to post materials which can then be used by others
either verbatim, or with changes.
You can read about Creative Commons options here:
...Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that offers flexible
copyright licenses for creative works.
Creative Commons Licenses
Probably the best-known example of a Creative Commons site is
Wikipedia, the online encylopedia. You can read about their licensing
...The license Wikipedia uses grants free access to our content in the
same sense as free software is licensed freely. This principle is
known as copyleft. That is to say, Wikipedia content can be copied,
modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same
freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the Wikipedia
article used (a direct link back to the article satisfies our author
credit requirement). Wikipedia articles therefore will remain free
forever and can be used by anybody subject to certain restrictions,
most of which serve to ensure that freedom.
Although Wikipedia requires users of their text to pass along the
license, and to attribute the text back to Wikipedia, this is
certainly not a requirement of a Creative Commons license...you can
structure it however best suits your needs.
I trust the information and explanations above fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Request
for Clarification, and I'm happy to assist you further.
search strategy -- Used bookmarked sites for copyright and Wikipedia