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Copyright Law: Works Made for Hire

Unlike with a patent, an original work does not need to be registered to have copyright protection. Original works have copyright protection from the very second that they are created. In most cases, the creator of the work is the one who owns the associated copyright. However, in cases where the original work was created ‘for hire’, the copyright can be owned by the company. Sometimes this can lead to disputes. It is imperative that Florida businesses take action to ensure that they are obtaining the copyrights for the original work that they are paying for. If you have any questions about copyright and works made for hire, please contact an experienced West Palm Beach copyright litigation attorney for immediate legal assistance.

Original Works Created by Employees

Under United States copyright law, employers will own the copyright of original work created by an employee if that work was created within the scope of their employment. In some cases, determining what constitutes ‘scope of employment’ can prove to be challenging. Courts will seek answers to the following questions when assessing scope of employment and copyright:

  • Was the original work the type of work that the employee was hired to perform?
  • Was the original work created largely during normal on the job hours?
  • Was the original work created with the purpose of advancing the interests of the employer?

If the answers to these questions are ‘yes’ then the employer will own the copyright protection of the original work. If Florida employers are instructing employees to perform tasks, with the goal of producing copyrightable work, it is a best practice for employers to get their employees to expressly sign copyright agreements. This type of agreement will expressly state that that the copyright for the original work will be owned by the company. This simple action will reduce the risk of future copyright disputes.

Original Works Created by Independent Contractors

Increasingly, employers are using the services of independent contractors. When hiring an independent contractor to produce copyrightable work, employers should always include a copyright agreement within the contract. Once again, this action will alleviate the risk of a dispute arising. Without a written agreement, the employer will be forced to rely on an ‘implied license’ when using the work. Put simply, an implied license will arise when a business transaction occurs between two parties that itself suggests that some copyright usage rights were exchanged but no actual agreement existed. However, implied licenses can lead to disputes. For example, in the Florida case of G. Mitchell Davis v. Tampa Bay Arena, a dispute arose between the stadium and a contracted photographer that they hire to take pictures. The arena wanted ownership of the photos, but the photographer claimed long term ownership rights. Your business can avoid this type of dispute by crafting a proper agreement.

Contact Our Office Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our attorneys have extensive experience handling Florida copyright issues. If your business is involved in a copyright dispute, please do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free review of your case. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout the West Palm Beach area, including in Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington.

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