Copyright Compendium

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Chapter 1900
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Chapter 2100
Chapter 2200
Chapter 2300
Chapter 2400

506.1 What Is a Work Made for Hire?

506.1 What Is a Work Made for Hire?


The term “work made for hire” is defined in Section 101 of the Copyright Act. This definition applies to works created on or after January 1, 1978. For works created prior to 1978, see Chapter 2100.


The statute defines a work made for hire as:


1. A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or

2. A work that is specially ordered or commissioned, provided that the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be

considered a “work made for hire,” and provided that the work is specially ordered

or commissioned for use as:


• A contribution to a collective work;


• A part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work;


• A translation;


• A compilation;


• A test;


• Answer material for a test;


• An atlas;


• An instructional text, which is defined as a “literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities;” or


• A supplementary work, which is defined as “a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes.”


17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “work made for hire”).

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