The copyright of a work always belongs to its author(s). Therefore, only its creator(s) – or someone else authorized by its creator(s) – can claim and register copyright.
When two or more authors create a single work together, they are considered joint authors and have the same interest in the work as each other. However, if two or more authors contribute to a collective work, their contributions are separate from the copyright of the collective work.
Works made for hire
“Works made for hire” are an important exception. When a work is made for hire – i.e. someone is commissioned to create it – the author is not the person who created the work. In this case, whoever hired the person to create it is actually the author and copyright owner.
There are two situations in which a work may be “made for hire”:
- When an employee of a company creates the work as part of their duties, or
- When a person and the hiring party have a written agreement which states that the work is to be considered a “work made for hire,” and that it is specially ordered or commissioned for use as:
- a compilation
- a contribution to a collective work
- a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
- a translation
- a supplementary work
- an instructional text
- a test or answer material for a test, or
- an atlas
The concept of “work made for hire” can be a lot more complicated than we have described, and can have serious consequences for the person who creates the work and their hiring party.
Contact our support team if you need further assistance.