A virtual firm serving Colorado, Kansas, & Missouri.

A virtual firm serving Colorado, Kansas, & Missouri.

Legal Guide

Who Owns the Copyright to Your Creative Work?

Do you know the answer? Are you sure your answer is right? If not, here are some tips to finding the right answer.


The Default Rule

This part is pretty easy–the person that creates an original work will own the copyright to that work unless one of the exceptions below applies.


Three Exceptions

There are three common scenarios under which someone other than the creator may own the copyright to the creator’s original work.

  • Creations by EmployeesWhen an employee creates an original work within the scope of her employment, copyright ownership will vest in the employer, not the employee.
  • Creations by Independent ContractorsWhen an independent contractor creates an original work, copyright ownership will vest in his client but only if (a) the work is identified as a “work made for hire” in a written agreement between the parties; and (b) the work is of a specific kind of work identified in the Copyright Act.
  • Transfer in WritingWhen a copyright owner transfers ownership of the copyright in writing ownership will transfer to the transferee.


Pro Tip

Always use contracts with contractors!

To make sure you own the copyright to the works your independent contractors create, always use a written contract with them. The contract should (1) identify the works as “works made for hire” and (2) as a backup, expressly state that the contractor transfers ownership to your business.

(This article is general in nature and is not legal advice.)

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