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Entrepreneurs and Copyright Ownership

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 by Jim Ruttler

Rights to creative expressions such as books, sculptures, music, and pictures initially vest in the author of the work. This can create a problem when a business owner or entrepreneur hires someone to produce a creative expression because, as the author, that person can end up owning the copyright in the underlying work. While there is a work-for-hire doctrine in the law which provides that any creative expression created by an employee for an employer is owned by the employer, this doctrine does not apply in the case of independent contractors. Thus, independent contractors retain the copyright interests in any creative works for which they are hired to produce. The only way to avoid this problematic result is for the independent contractor to agree to assign their copyright interests to the business owner or entrepreneur. Such an assignment should be recorded with the U.S. Library of Congress.

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