Work-for-hire refers to the situations in which a creator of a work does not retain the rights to that work. By default, and artist or designer owns the copyright to his or her work. Work-for-hire includes two exceptions to that rule:
1. The creator of the work is an employee of a company, and the work falls within the scope of his or her employment. In this case, the employer owns the copyright.
2. A specially commissioned work is created for an independent contractor, and falls under one of the nine categories of work specified by law:
- Contribution to a larger work, such as a magazine
- A part of a motion picture or audiovisual work
- A compilation of existing works
- Instructional texts or graphic works
- A translation of an existing work
- A test
- Answers for a test
- Supplementary works, such as a graph for a book
- An atlas
Designers, artists and other creators should always be careful and consult a lawyer when dealing with work-for-hire, as it is often abused.
“The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.” Eleventh Edition. Graphic Artists Guild, Inc. 2003.
Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler. “All About Rights for Visual Artists.” Practising Law Institute, 2006.