Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can an Assignment Create a Work for Hire?

Dear Rich: If I chose to completely assign my copyright in a personally created work of authorship to a sole proprietorship or single-shareholder S-corp -- with either of these businesses being owned exclusively by me -- would the copyrighted product be considered a work made for hire in determining the duration of its legal protection? The short answer to your question is "No." Just because a business acquires a copyright does not make it a work made for hire. The Dear Rich Staff reports that work made for hire status is determined by the original act of authorship -- that is, who is the author and under what conditions the work is created. If it was created by an employee within the course of employment or by an independent contractor (and it fulfills the IC work for hire requirements), it will be a work made for hire forever (or at least for the duration of copyright). In other words, authorship status travels with the copyright no matter who acquires it down the road.