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Can a non-conditional GIFT of a license to use a digital photo be rescinded, or is it permanent?

Iowa City, IA |

Say I take a digital photo. I then tell somebody (let's say in writing) that they can use it for whatever they want, free of charge. I offer no time period for this offer or any strings attached. I ask for and receive nothing of value in return. I then deliver them an electronic copy of the image.

Is this license a permanent gift? Or can I rescind the license to use my photo later if/when I change my mind? I know that if I offer somebody, say, a horse and they accept delivery of it, then it is theirs, but does the same hold true for a usage license?

Does the answer to this question change if I offer to give them my copyright to the image as well, not just a license to use it?

Attorney Answers 1


Your gift of a photo would probably be presumed to be permanent and non-revocable, since you gave it with no strings. Even if you could revoke it, it would never be less than a non-exclusive license to the person you gave it to.

A copyright can only be transferred in writing, so if you transferred that as well as the copy of the photo itself in writing, I don't think that would be revocable either, even if you somehow claimed you could revoke it. If you transferred a copyright orally, that would probably be considered a non-exclusive license.

Why am I using the word "probably"? Because legal analyses always depend on the situation's specific facts, and here your facts seem hypothetical and unclear.

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