|Fall 2000 - Copyright Law > Topic4||Duration: 7 minutes||To begin => [Dial-up | Cable modem or faster]|
Lens Morgan is the top staff photographer for the Metro Gazette. His work is highly regarded and many of his assignments are very loosely specified -- e.g., "It's very hot go get a good human interest photo of people sweltering." or go get a good "4th of July", "election day", "Thanksgiving photo". His photos appear in the paper with his name attached. Lens doesn't work for the paper full-time; he has a regular weekly schedule. On his own time, he does weddings and personal projects on speculation -- seeking after the fact to sell the images to others. His forte is nature photography.
Are the photographs shot by Lens while on assignment for the Gazette, works for hire? To make the question interesting, let us suppose that on one of his assignments he really, really scores; Lens takes a magnficent photo -- one that not only has great artistic merit but has immense potential as a revenue source. Is this a work for hire, not a work for hire, or to answer the question do you need to know more? There is no written agreement between the parties that uses this language or addresses the ownership of images Lens takes on assignment whether used by the paper or not.
On weekends, Lens does weddings. Lens quotes a rate for shooting a wedding and for prints in various sizes and combinations. Nothing is said between the parties, and nothing is signed by them that addresses copyright. That is unwise on the part of Lens, but useful for us. Are the wedding photos works for hire?
Lens sells a set of his nature images (see above) to a local nature center for use in its brochure and a slide show.
A book publisher buys some of Lens nature photos and the two sign an agreement that provides for assignment of copyright and also stipulates that the images are works for hire. (Do you recall why the publisher would want to have them treated as "works for hire" even in the context of an otherwise effective assignment of rights?)
Can an employer effectively provide in the terms of an employment agreement that everything produced by the employee is a work for hire?Or conversely can an employer dramatically reduce or eliminate the zone of the "works for hire" doctrine by an individual employee or class of employees?