Q: What constitutes "work for hire?"
A: "Work for hire" refers to the transfer of copyright that occurs when one of your employees creates something creative while working for your company. For instance, when an ad agency's employee writes a jingle, the jingle is considered "work for hire" which means the agency owns the copyright, not the employee.
Sounds simple enough, right? Here's where things get complicated:
- An independent contractor (not employee) can sometimes retain copyright of created works.
- In certain situations, an employee still may be able to claim ownership.
How do you make sure you own the creative work employees and contractors produce for you? For any employees, and especially for any contractors, you'll want to use employment or contractor agreements that assign ownership of created work to your company. That's crucial.
Upon hiring someone, you'll want to go the extra step:
- Make sure your contracts clearly state that their work is considered "work for hire."
- Ensure an employee or independent contractor transfers ownership of the work to you.
See the chapter "Work-for-Hire Agreements: Who Owns Creative Property?" in our media liability eBook for more on how work-for-hire agreements work.
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