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Home > Creating Copyright > Ownership Factors > Works Made for Hire

Works Made for Hire

Employers may own works:

  • Created by employees
  • Within course and scope of employment

  • No written agreement required

Work Made For Hire
Copyright law provides that initial ownership of copyright vests with the author of the work unless the work is created by an employee within the course and scope of employment, in which case the employer would own the work. This is known as "work made for hire".

Does this mean that all works created by anyone paid by the University are works made for hire? No. Some works meet this definition and others do not. Reaching a determination of whether or not a particular work is a work made for hire requires a careful analysis of the circumstances under which the work was created.

University of Washington
Generally, when a work arises in the University from individual initiative it tends to be viewed as a work belonging to the creator rather than the employer.

The UW Copyright Policy expressly encourages the creation of scholarly works of individual initiative and "acknowledges the right of faculty, staff, and students to prepare and publish, through individual initiative, articles, pamphlets, and books that are copyrighted by the authors or their publishers and that may generate royalty income for the authors."

The UW Copyright Policy further states that "University faculty, staff, and students retain all rights in copyrightable materials they create, except when special circumstances or contractual arrangements prevail." Special circumstances or contractual arrangements that may give rise to University ownership or financial interests in a work include those works subject to terms of sponsored grants or contracts, works specially commissioned by the University, and works created using University service centers.

It is important to understand what, if any, contributions to a project will be owned by the University as works made for hire. Contact UW TechTransfer Digital Ventures if you have questions about your project.


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