Who owns the copyright to a work made for hire?

sportsphotographerCC0“Works made for hire” are an exception to the general rule that the person who takes a photograph is the copyright owner. When a photograph is a work made for hire, the employer is the copyright owner, not the photographer.

A photograph is a work made for hire if it was taken by an employee within the scope of his or her employment. An example would be a staff photographer who is an employee of a newspaper.

A photograph can also be a work made for hire if the parties sign a written contract designating it as such, and it is specially ordered or commissioned for use as part of a collective work, compilation, motion picture, or other category specified in the law. [1]

Instead of the usual copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years, works made for hire have a copyright term of 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. The right that a copyright owner normally has to terminate a transfer of copyright after a period of time, does not exist for works made for hire.

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