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Who owns the copyright me or my employer?

Employees and employers often have questions regarding ownership of written materials or any other copyrightable work created by an employee. The short answer is that any work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment is "a work made for hire" and any and all copyrights in that work are fully owned by the employer. The employee retains no copyright rights in a work made for hire.

This is in accordance with the applicable United States Code (Federal Statutory Law) which clearly states as follows:

A "work made for hire" is—

a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; (17 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions)

Works Made for Hire.— In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright. (17 U.S. Code § 201 - Ownership of copyright, emphasis added)

Therefore, where the work in question is prepared by an employee hired to prepare the work (writing or anything else subject to copyright), the ownership in the copyright belongs solely to the employer. This is true regardless of the originality or creativity involved on the part of the employee. It is also true whether or not a copyright certificate has been obtained on the work in question.

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Citadel Patent Law - Tacoma Intellectual Property Attorney
Located at 9125 Bridgeport Way Southwest, Suite 105 Lakewood, WA 98499. View Map
Phone: (253) 256-5775 | Local Phone: (253) 682-0246.