Copyright is an intricate yet important legal item. That is why the Copyright Act of 1976 granted certain essential protections to owners of copyrighted items such as the right to make copies of the work, the right to make items based on the existing protected work and the right to distribute or sell copies of the work. If you run a business that creates new works, then it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with this area of the law so that you do not lose out on your intellectual property and potentially a lot of money.
Who Generally Owns a Copyright?
For the most part, an individual who creates a new work is entitled to its copyright. A copyright can only be sought once the work is in its fixed form. This means the item needs to be completed. So for example, you could only file for copyright on a song once the song is complete. It is possible to have joint authors of a copyright. If two people make significant contributions to the work and each contribution is considered to be inseparable part, then those two individuals would share the copyright. Someone who creates a copyright is also entitled to sell that right. In which case, the person who buys the copyright would then legally own it.
Work Made for Hire
One aspect of copyright law to be mindful of is the concept of work made for hire. If you own a business and you hire someone to create something for you, then you as the employer would be entitled to the copyright instead of the employee. In these cases, the individual would need to sign an agreement that clarifies that any work the person does under you is within the scope of work for hire. There are eight categories that fall within this, and they include:
Even if a certain work does not fall within one of the above categories, it could still be viewed as work made for hire if an employee creates it during his or her employment. Additionally, if someone contributes a piece to a collective work such as an encyclopedia or a magazine, then the author may be entitled to his or her individual contribution. A copyright can exist for each individual component and then a separate copyright can exist for the encyclopedia or magazine as a whole because the law views editing everything together as its own creative endeavor and worthy of copyright.
Numerous lawsuits are filed every year about individuals who feel they are entitled to a copyright even though technically the employer has the right. Even if you are legally entitled to the copyright, going to court to mount a defense can eat up a ton of money and resources. The case can get even trickier if the person working for you was technically an independent contractor as opposed to an employee. The easiest thing to do when you are in the business of creating new works is to have everyone working for you understand the terms of the copyright upfront. Lay out the terms clearly so that you have a contract in place to defend yourself and that the employee understands everything he or she creates will belong to you.
Protect what is yours by filing for a copyright as soon as the work is finished. You should also seek legal counsel to get more information regarding this legal field.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.