Who Owns The Copyright of Work Created By A Contractor? A Trap For The Unwary
It’s really basic: ownership of the copyright in work a business pays for can often be critical for successful commercialization of that work. Unfortunately, the U.S. Copyright contains arcane provisions that will often produce a counter intuitive result – leaving full copyright ownership with the contractor. How could this possibly be?? Internet attorneys, advisors and businesses cannot afford not to be aware of the applicable laws.
When copyrightable work is created by an employee, the work can become the property of the employer in one of two ways: either by qualifying as a “work made for hire” as defined in Section 101 of the U.S. Copyright Act or by having the employee assign the work to the employer.
A “work made for hire” can be created by an employee or by an independent contractor. If created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment, then all such work is automatically owned by the employer as a “work made for hire.” No written agreement or mention in an employee manual is required, though this may be recommended.
HOWEVER, when work is created …