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Copyright Work For Hire Agreement vs. Assignment

Posted by Steve Vondran | Mar 14, 2021

Attorney Steve® - IP & Entertainment Law - Work Made For Hire Agreements & Copyright Assignments

work for hire agreement

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It is important to know the difference between a "work made for hire" under the United States Copyright Law vs. a Copyright "Assignment".  Click on the video above to get the general legal overview.

17 U.S.C. 101 - A “work made for hire” 

There are two different types of works made for hire.  Under the Copyright Act: 

(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; 


(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as:

  1. a contribution to a collective work
  2. as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  3. as a translation
  4. as a supplementary work
  5. as a compilation
  6. as an instructional text
  7. as a test
  8. as answer material for a test,
  9. or as an atlas

If the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.


"According to the Copyright Act of 1976, ownership of a copyright initially vests in the “author or authors of the work.” 17 U.S.C. § 201(a). “In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author . . . .” Id. § 201(b). T

he Copyright Act defines a “work made for hire” as either a “work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment” or “a work specially ordered or commissioned by use as a contribution to a collective work.” Hi-Tech Video Prods., Inc. v. Cap. Cities/ABC, Inc., 58 F.3d 1093, 1095 (6th Cir. 1995) (quoting 17 U.S.C. § 101).

To determine whether a person is an “employee” for copyright purposes, courts must look to common law principles of agency. See id. at 1095–96 (listing ten nonexclusive common law factors)."

work for hire mindmap

What is a “supplementary work” under the Work For Hire doctrine?

In the work for hire copyright circular this is defined as:

"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 forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an “instructional text” is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities."

Contact a United States Copyright Law Firm

Established in 2004, our firm is a leader in copyright law in the United States.  We can help with copyright licensing and infringement matters, dispute resolution (mediation, arbitration and litigation), fair use opinions, DMCA law, YouTube creator issues, endorsement agreements, work for hire agreements, copyright recapture, copyright assignments and terminations.  We have appeared in over 400 federal copyright lawsuits and represented countless artists and companies alike.  We are usually able to structure a low FLAT RATE FEE (predictable one time fee) so that access to an entertainment and IP counsel is affordable.  Call us at (877) 276-5084 or email us through our contact form.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337

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