Key Harrington Barnes, PC

Copyright protection and authorship

A company's intellectual property is one of their most important assets. Protecting trade secrets from the competition is crucial for many Texas companies' success. Copyright protection is a large part of retaining the rights to one's work or work created by employees. Business owners should fully understand what they are entitled to claim copyright of and how to ensure they are considered the authors of a work.

Although a work has copyright protection immediately once it is put into a fixed form, the person who controls the copyright might not be the person who initially created it. Employers can claim authorship of works created by employees in certain situations. These are called works made for hire. A work made for hire is something that an employee produced within the scope of his or her job as long as there is a written agreement stipulating this designation.

A written agreement might also exist between someone who orders or commissions a work and the person who completes the order. Examples might include audiovisual works, such as something for use in a motion picture. A translation or instructional text could also be a work made for hire. People can order a test or the answers for a test as a work made for hire. A compilation or a part of a collective work would qualify. Otherwise, a distinction for copyright protection is made between separate contributions and works as a whole.

Just because a work has copyright protection the moment it is in fixed form does not mean that people do not steal or use works without permission. Business owners might also face disputes about whether a specific work actually is a work made for hire. In these and other cases, an attorney might assist in proving authorship of the work in question and otherwise protecting intellectual property.

Source: Copyright, "Who Can Claim Copyright?", December 15, 2014

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