Business-Minded Legal Solutions

Do you appreciate the value of ‘work made for hire’?

The nuance of copyright law is something that might be lost on many in Texas. Most readers might appreciate that the creator of a piece of art, whether it’s a painting, movie or some form of original writing is understood to enjoy copyright protection.

Did you know, though, that the protection provided under copyright law doesn’t require any formal registration with an official office? All it takes is for the creator to fix his or her product in a “tangible medium.” If you write it, draw it, record it or store it as a file on your computer, copyright protection is in force. Protecting the intellectual property, however, is a more delicate matter requiring a full understanding of the law.

The creator is not always the copyright holder

Here’s another slight nuance that many might not appreciate. Sometimes, the individual you might think holds the copyright on a work does not. For example, if your business hires an independent contractor to write content for your website, you might logically think that the copyright of that person’s output is automatically owned by the business. However, that might not be the case.

Generally, such works do fall under the heading of the legal theory of “work for hire” or “work made for hire.” As such, it is widely understood that the entity that paid for the product holds the copyright. Not the creator.

However, if the creator was an independent contractor, and there was no language in the employment contract specifically stating that work produced by the creator on the job is “work made for hire,” it could lead to a costly legal dispute later.

If a creator produces something on his or her own time and then uses it as part of the deliverable to your business, it might not be considered work for hire by the court, and the creator might have an infringement claim.

For the integrity of your business, you need to be sure of your rights and obligations across the spectrum of laws, and consulting an experienced attorney is the way to do that.