Professor Ann Bartow, an expert in intellectual property law, commented on the case involving Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lee had sued her agent saying he tricked her into signing away her copyright to the classic novel. In an article in Lawyers.com, Professor Bartow provided the specifics of U.S. copyright law.
“Publishers can take over a copyright ‘only if there is a writing (license, etc.) that gives the publisher the copyright. There are a wide range of agreements an author and a publisher can have in terms of copyrights,’ Bartow explains. To transfer ownership of a copyright requires ‘writing and usually by recording that writing with the Copyright Office.’”
The entire article can be read here.