Ownership of Intellectual Property
The author or creator of intellectual property is usually the owner of that intellectual property unless the intellectual property is a “work made for hire.” Copyright law (Section 101 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code) defines a “work made for hire” as:
- a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
- a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work,4 as a compilation, as an instructional text,5 as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.
If the work does not fit the legal definition of “work made for hire” the employer may still own the intellectual property if it is created pursuant to a contract, collective bargaining agreement, or assignment of copyright.
4 A “supplementary work” is “a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewards, afterwords, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes.”
5 An “instructional text” is a “literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.”