5 Tips to Determine Who Owns a Copyright

The rights granted through copyright law are very important to the owner of the copyright. As such, it is imperative to understand who the owner of the work is to determine who actually has the rights.

Tip 1: Creator is the Owner

As a general rule, the creator of the copyright (the author) is the owner. When there are several authors involved in the creation of a work, all authors are considered co-authors. It is recommended you determine together, and agree in writing, what share of income from the exploitation of that copyright each of you will earn.

There are, however, a number of circumstances where the author is not the owner of copyright and is not entitled to the rights copyright provides. These situations are described below in Tips two through five.

Tip 2: Commissioned Works

If a work is commissioned, the copyright might belong to the person who is commissioning the work – and not the person creating the work. An example of this would be a bride and groom who commission a photographer to shoot their wedding. If the photographer held the rights to the photographs, then the wedding couple would not have the right to reproduce their photos. However, since the rights to the photos actually belong to the commissioning couple, they can make as many copies as they please to send to their friends and family.

Tip 3: Course of Employment

Another example where the copyright might not belong to the creator is with works created in the course of employment. For instance, if copy was written for an advertisement during the course of employment at an advertising firm, the person who wrote the copy would not own the copyright because it was written while performing their contract to the company. In other words, if the work was created under a “contract of service” as part of the terms of employment, the employee probably owns the copyright.

Tip 4: Transferring of Copyrights

In some situations, the owner of the copyright might actually choose to transfer the rights to another party through a contract. For example, a musician might transfer their rights to a song to a record label in return for a portion of the revenue earned for each copy sold.

Tip 5: Check the Contract

In many cases there will be a contract involving the creation. Always review the fine print to ensure you know who is retaining the rights to the copyright.

In all cases where copyright is concerned, it’s important to understand who the owner of the work is to determine who holds the rights to reproduce the work.

Disclaimer

The above information is meant as a general guide to further your copyright knowledge and does not constitute legal advice. For questions about your specific work, you should consult a copyright lawyer in your country.

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