Klein & Wilson

Copyright issues regarding works created by employees

One thing copyright disputes sometimes arise over is who holds the copyright to a given protected material. Disputes over this issue can sometimes center on who got the copyright when the protected work was initially created.

Generally, when a material eligible for copyright protection is created, the copyright for it goes to its creator. However, this is not the case for works that are "made for hire."

One of the circumstances under which a work will be considered to be made for hire is if the creator of the work was an employee and made the work in the scope of their employment. When this circumstance is present, the copyright for the work goes to the employer, not the employee. The exception to this is if both the employer and employee formed a signed, written agreement establishing otherwise.

Now, it is possible for disputes to arise between parties over whether a given work was made by hire through employment. For one, parties may disagree over whether a given person was an employee at the time they created a work. There are a variety of different factors courts consider when determining whether an employer-employee relationship existed when it comes to issues regarding the creation of a copyrighted work. Also disagreements could arise over whether an employee was in the scope of their employment when they created a given work. What the results of such disputes are can significantly impact the rights of the involved parties.

Skilled lawyers can help individuals with navigating complex copyright disputes, such as disputes touching on "made for hire" issues.

Source: United States Copyright Office, "Circular 9 - Works Made for Hire," Accessed Feb. 4, 2016 

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