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Works Made For Hire

Works Made For Hire or Work For Hire is an exception to the principle that the person who creates a work is the author of that work. If a work is “made for hire,” the employer, and not the employee, is considered the author.

Works Made For Hire is also known as corporate authorship. The employer may be a corporation or an individual. This is an important section of Intellectual Property Rights. 

The copyright law defines a category of works called Works Made For Hire. To understand the complex concept of a works made for hire, it is necessary to refer not only to the statutory definition but also to its interpretation in cases decided by courts.

Determining Whether a Work Is Made for Hire

Whether or not a particular work is made for hire is determined by the relationship between the parties. This determination may be difficult, because the statutory definition of a work made for hire is complex and not always easily applied.

That definition was the focus of a 1989 Supreme Court decision (Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730 [1989]). The court held that to determine whether a work is made for hire, one must first ascertain whether the work was prepared by (1) an employee or (2) an independent contractor.

If a work is created by an employee, part 1 of the statutory definition applies. 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. If a work is created by an independent contractor, then the work is a specially ordered or commissioned work, and part 2 of the statutory definition applies.

Such a work can be a work made for hire only if both of the following conditions are met: (1) it comes within one of the nine categories of works listed in part 2 of the definition and (2) there is a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire.

Examples of works made for hire

A software program created within the scope of his or her duties by a staff programmer for Creative Computer Corporation.

A sound recording created by the salaried staff engineers of ABC Record Company.

A newspaper article written by a staff journalist for publication in the newspaper that employs him.

A musical arrangement written for XYZ Music Company by a salaried arranger on its staff.

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.

Who Is the Author of a Work Made for Hire?

If a work is a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is the author and should be named as the author in Space 2 of the application for copyright registration. The box marked “work-made-for-hire” should be checked “yes.”

Who Is the Owner of the Copyright in a Work Made for Hire?

If a work is a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is the initial owner of the copyright unless there has been a written agreement to the contrary signed by both parties.

Effect on Term of Copyright Protection
The term of copyright protection of a work made for hire is 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. (A work not made for hire is ordinarily protected by copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years.) For additional information concerning the terms of copyright protection, request Circular 15a “Duration of Copyright.”

Effect on Termination Rights
The termination provisions of the law do not apply to works made for hire.

Books on Works Made For Hire

Work for Hire Author Contract - Line by Line - Customizeable CD-Rom in Word Doc, Ready to Use CD-Rom Edition by Aspatore Books.