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  • Writer's pictureMarie-Avril Roux Steinkühler

Assignment of copyrights: beware of the reclassification as a donation!

Beware of reclassifying an assignment of your copyright as a donation! (French Law)

Although this is a legal subtlety, the distinction between a gratuitous transfer and a donation can have very practical and unpleasant consequences. This was demonstrated by the Paris judicial court in a decision of February 2022: the reclassification of a gratuitous transfer as a donation can lead to the nullity of the deed and thus cancel the transfer. A donation is governed by Article 931 of the Civil Code, which makes the validity of an inter vivos donation conditional on its being recorded before a notary. In the case examined by the Paris court, the deed of gratuitous transfer was made under private signature, and since it corresponds to the very definition of a donation (see recital 11 of the decision), “the deed, which should have been made before a notary when it is clear that it was concluded under private signature, is null and void”.

How to avoid the nullity of the transfer?

Since the nullity arises from the fact that the deed was not concluded before a notary, one could say that it is enough to conclude all one's deeds before a notary! However, this can be an expensive solution and does not help to smooth the running of a company. Good drafting of the transfer contract may be enough to avoid it being reclassified as a donation. Ideally, the transfer contract should clearly state the consideration and intentions of the transferor: to disseminate a work more widely, to transmit the capacity to bring an infringement action, etc.


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