Question of the week: who owns the copyright? Answer: your employer!

Gasps of dismay this week from delegates at my copyright course. It always gets them talking when I say that their employer owns the copyright in their work. Even when they do the same work as at work but in their own time and at home.

Photographer forced to destroy images

There’s a famous case when a photographer was forced by her ex-employer to destroy images she had taken in her own time but when employed by them. That really gets them talking.

And then I regularly get a string of questions: “what if a writer takes a photograph?”; “what if I write a novel?”; “what if a photographer writes a picture caption?”

Answer: it’s the employer, is common practice

And the answer to them all is: what is the common practice in the company? If writers commonly take photographs then the copyright is owned by the employer. And if photographers commonly write captions then it is owned by the employer. But few are employed to write novels.

Freelances keep their copyright

The clue is in the word “employer”. If you are in employment then the ownership of copyright is with the employer. But if on some type of service contract — such as a commission – then the creator of the content is the owner.

To really understand copyright and other issues in intellectual property then do our Copyright and Intellectual Property Law elearning course.

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