Work Made for Hire Employees

Work made for hire is an important consideration in companies with employees. This is an area of law dealing with copyrights



Anytime a person creates something creative, he or she automatically gains a copyright over that content. However, there are a few exceptions to that rule. Work made for hire is one of these exceptions. A copyright gives the owner the authority to choose who gets to use the content. Additionally, the copyright gives the owner the power to pick how and when to use the content. For example, a musician can prevent Pandora from playing her song if she wanted.


Default Ownership

By default, the person who created the content owns the copyright. This analysis is only simple when there’s one author and he or she made the content on his own behalf. The analysis gets complicated with multiple owners or hired content creation.


Work Made for Hire

When you have employees, you have to deal with intellectual property concerns in your company. Employees can create content for your company’s use. When an employee creates content as part of their employment, the company owns the copyright by default. This is called “Work Made for Hire.” We wrote a blog on how this analysis plays out with independent contractors. 17 USC § 101 defines, in part, work made for hire as “A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.” What this means is that the company owns anything the employee makes while in the scope of his employment.


Change the Ownership Beyond Work Made for Hire

You can always contract to change how copyright ownership is handled in your company. For example, you can set it so your employee owns whatever he or she creates. However, you need to make sure, no matter what you do, you maintain a license or copyright to use the content created by your employee. Without a license or copyright, you would actually be in violation of your employee’s rights.


If you’d like more information regarding your intellectual property policies in your company, please feel free to contact us using the form below. Additionally, we can be reached by email at or by calling 919-912-9640.


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