Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

What is a work made for hire?

New York residents may be aware of the general rule of copyrights-once work is created, the author of the work becomes the copyright holder. This means they hold the rights that a copyright holder has and it is their exclusive property. However, they may not be aware of the exception that exists for "works made for hire."

According to the Copyright Act, a work made for hire is either work created by an employee within the scope of their employment or a work that has been commissioned as a contribution in a collective work, part of a motion picture or as a supplementary work or a compilation among other works, as long as the parties agree that it has been prepared as a work for hire. When a work is made for hire, the author is considered the employer, even though the employee may be the creator. Employers can be organizations, firms, or even an individual.

An employee differs from an independent contractor and this distinction is an essential one in copyright law. An independent contractor is generally someone who is not an employee- this means the first portion of the definition of works made for hire do not apply to them. However, if an employer has commissioned the work, then the second portion of the definition mentioned above applies. However, it will only be considered works for hire if it falls within the nine categories of works listed in the definition or if the parties agree-not otherwise.

Intellectual property right law is one way people can protect their work. However, though everyone may want to protect their creations, it is important to understand who can protect what. Therefore, it is important to understand intellectual property rights law and how it can protect one's rights in the case of intellectual property litigation. An experienced attorney may be able to assist New York authors in understanding their rights.

Source: United States Copyright Office, "Copyright," Accessed on Sept. 27, 2016

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