Who Owns the Copyright Interest in a Creative Work?

Image for post
Image for post

When is a work of authorship… a work for hire?

According to the laws of the United States, work is for hire when it is created within the scope of an employment relationship or when it is a commissioned work.

Within the scope of an employment relationship

When a person is hired as an employee, the person is hired to perform services on behalf of his or her employer. Accordingly, it is the employer who provides the place, the tools, the instruction about when, where, and how is the service to be performed. In the development of this employment relationship, all works created by the employee within the scope of his employment pertains and are owned by the employer who is the rightful copyright owner.

  • What are the employee’s responsibilities?
  • Where was the work created? At the workplace or at a third location?
  • Was the work created under the supervision of the employer or an employer’s agent?
  • Is there work related to the employee’s job?
  • Was there a written agreement between the employer and the employee in regard to the copyright interest in the work?
  • Who provided the tools and the materials used to create the work?

As a commissioned work

In general terms, specially commissioned works, this is, works created by an independent contractor, are not considered works made for hire unless the parties expressly agree to it writing and the work falls into one of the following statutory categories:

  • A part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  • A Translation
  • A Supplementary work (a work prepared for the purpose of introducing, explaining, or revising the work of another author)
  • A Compilation
  • An Instructional text
  • Answer material for a test

Written by

Giselle Ayala is an attorney focused on immigration, business, marketing, and artist’s transactions.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store