Works Made for Hire

Generally, the author of a work is its creator. However, the Copyright Act makes an exception for what are called “works made for hire.”

The Employer Owns the Copyright

In this situation, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author and owner of the copyright, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary.

On the copyright application, when asked if this is a work made for hire, you would indicate “yes” and enter the employers name as the author.


Specially Ordered or Commissioned Works

Also, works specially ordered or commissioned for use in the following are all considered works made for hire if the parties expressly agree in writing:

    • Contribution to a collective work
    • Part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
    • Translation
    • Supplementary work
    • Compilation
    • Instructional text
    • Test, or answer material for a test
    • Atlas

Whether or not a particular work is made for hire is determined by the relationship between the parties. Note that the term “employee” here is not really the same as the common understanding
of the term; for copyright purposes, it means an employee under the general common law of agency.

Generally, the closer an employment relationship comes to regular, salaried employment, the more likely it is that a work created within the scope of that employment would be a work made for hire. However, there is no precise standard for determining whether or not a work is made for hire.

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