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Defining 'Works Made for Hire'

Court addresses ownership of employee-made works.

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Key point. Literary or musical works produced by an employee within the scope of his or her employment represent "works made for hire." The employer is the owner of the copyright in such a work, unless it has issued a signed writing transferring copyright ownership back to the employee.

In a case that will be of interest to church leaders, a federal court in New Jersey addressed the issue of whether an employee or employer owns the copyright in literary works produced by the employee in connection with his or her employment. A police officer created an innovative educational program to stop car theft. The program included an officer's training manual and a student workbook. When the city learned that the officer was marketing the program to other cities, it sued him. The city claimed that the program was a "work made for hire," and as such the city owned the copyright in the program. ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 1996

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