A work made for hire (sometimes abbreviated as work for hire and WFH) is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally-recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author. In some countries, this is known as corporate authorship. The incorporated entity serving as an employer may be a corporation or other legal entity, an organization, or an individual.
States that are party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works recognize separately copyrights and moral rights. Moral rights include the right of the actual creators to publicly identify themselves as such, and to maintain the integrity of their work.
The actual creator may or may not be publicly credited for the work, and this credit does not affect its legal status. For example, Microsoft hired many programmers to develop the Windows operating system, which is credited simply to Microsoft Corporation. By contrast, Adobe Systems lists many of the developers of Photoshop in its credits. In both cases, the software is the property of the employing company. In both cases, the actual creators have moral rights. Similarly, newspapers routinely credit news articles written by their staff, and publishers credit the writers and illustrators who produce comic books featuring characters such as Batman or Spider-Man, but the publishers hold copyrights to the work. In the case of articles published in academic journals, it is common for the publisher to require the authors to sign a copyright transfer, a short legal document transferring all author copyrights to the publisher. The authors retain moral rights in their work, and may also be granted by the publisher a license to distribute the article themselves (e.g., in the form of reprints and PDFs) or create derivative works from it (eg, to use illustrations from the article in future publications or presentations).
Law of the United States
The U.S. Constitution requires the initial owner of a copyright in a work be the author. In most cases, the author is the individual or group of individuals that actually creates the work. However, when a work is created by an employee as part of his or her job, or when certain kinds of works are created on behalf of a client and all parties agree in writing to the designation, a work may be a "work for hire". The author of a work for hire is never the actual creator. Instead, the author is the person or entity that hired the actual creator. The above U.S. Constitutional requirement is why the employer or paying client is considered the "author" in a work for hire, contrary to standard usage of the word "author", because a law directing copyright be awarded to an employer or client instead of the author would be unconstitutional.
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