Section 204(a) of the Copyright Act requires that, to be valid, a transfer of copyright ownership must be in writing, such as a “memorandum of the transfer.” The Third Circuit recently rejected the Ninth Circuit’s requirement that the memorandum of the transfer be “more or less contemporaneous” with the transfer, and held that a memorandum of transfer executed almost 9 years after the alleged transfer was fine (at least where the transferor and the transferee both signed it). But the court further held that there must also be historical evidence – beyond the later-created memorandum -- that the transfer actually occurred. The accused infringer in the case (who was not the transferor) had successfully moved for summary judgment challenging that the transfer ever occurred, and the Third Circuit affirmed that the transferee failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact on that point.
The case is Barefoot Architect, Inc. v. Bunge, No. 09-4495 (3d Cir. Jan. 14, 2011).