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Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, or parts thereof, can be transferred.A transfer must be in writing and signed by the copyright owner or owner of the rights being conveyed (whereas permissions can be given orally or in writing, although as I noted last week, in writing is a better practice; see my permissions article for more information).
The downside of assigning your copyright over to a publisher is that you receive only a cut of what you would have received if you retained the copyright, and you may also lose some creative control.
For instance, the decision over whether to turn your book into a movie may now rest with the publisher and not you.
Termination of Transfers An author who has transferred a copyright to another party can reacquire their rights after a certain number of years through the process of terminating a transfer.
The process of terminating and reclaiming a copyright is a complex process, and the rules depend on when the work was initially published.
An alternative of transferring the entire copyright over to a publisher is licensing the work to them in a limited capacity.
In this instance, you retain the copyright, but you also get the business advantages from the publisher.
Very generally, a termination of transfer can occur between 28 years and 56 years after first publication of the copyrighted work.
These terminations are filed with the Copyright Office, and can therefore be found in the Copyright Office records.
For this reason, it may be a good idea to contact an experienced intellectual property attorney in your area to help you with a transfer of copyright agreement.
For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit Find Law's section on Intellectual Property, including a subsection on Copyrights.