A work for hire agreement is a document which identifies an organization, an institution or a corporate entity as being the legal and moral authors of certain works, and not the actual creator, or the employee who creates the work. Many examples of work for hire occur in our daily lives, including newspaper articles which are usually credited to the newspaper company, or the news network instead of individual authors of the articles. In the US constitution, a work for hire document is valid only if all parties agree in writing regarding the transfer of copyright to the institution or corporate entity. A work for hire agreement is also known as corporate authorship. Work for hire documents are often abbreviated to WFH agreements. Some important points which need to be considered in WFH agreements are as follows:
- Since, according to US laws(1), copyright always must be credited to the author of a work, WFH as a concept can become unconstitutional if not for the presence of the system of transferred authorship and transfer of copyright. By this, the moral and legal rights of the actual creator of the work are transferred to the company or the employer and thus, the condition for work for hire is incorporated into copyright regulations.
- There are only specific instances under which work for hire can be incorporated. If the work of the employee forms part of his employment, or is in the scope of an assignment given to him by his company, or if it is part of a collective enterprise, such products of labor can be considered as being work for hire. For example, despite the contribution of many people in the development of a software program, each individual contributor is not credited but the client company is credited with the software. This is an example of work for hire,
- A work for hire agreement is a legal document and must thus be written carefully following the guidelines set by the US constitution. In case of a transfer of copyright and legal claims, this must be specifically mentioned in the work for hire agreement. In case of payment of royalties and other monetary matters in the work for hire agreement, these must also be clearly mentioned in the WFH agreement.
[Also Read: Copyright License Agreement]
Thus, a WFH document is a tricky legal document and the US laws ensure that there is no exploitation of authors of the work in the guise of WFH agreement. Hence, the agreement must be honest, transparent and watertight in order to be approved by concerned authorities.