Skip to Main Content

The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Copyright Protection - Managing Creator Rights

What is a Work-Made-For-Hire?

According to section 101 of the Copyright Act

  1. A work made for hire is prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment OR
  2. The work is specifically ordered or commissioned for use as
    1. Contribution to a collective work
    2. Motion picture or other audio-visual work
    3. Translation
    4. Supplementary work
    5. Instructional text
    6. Test
    7. Test materials
    8. Answer material for a test
    9. Atlas

The work must fall under one of the mentioned categories, must have been included in a written agreement, must have been specifically stated as a work made for hire, and signed by all parties in order to be considered a work made for hire.

What defines an "employee"?

The definition for “employee” or “consultant” doesn’t exist within the Copyright Act, which is a complicating factor. The concept is based off of the level of control an individual has over the work.

Some things to keep in mind when determining whether you are considered an employee:

  • Work done during employment period 
  • Amount of control the employer has 
  • Whether the work is being done at home or at work 
  • Consider who is providing the tools to get the work done 
  • Who controls work schedule? 
  • Does my employer control when or how I get paid/are taxes withheld
  • Employer hires staff to help with the work 
  • Work done outside or within scope of daily duties

Changes to Rights and Duration?

If a work were to fall under the category work-made-for-hire:

-The duration of copyright would be either 95 years from date of publication or 120 years from date of creation, whichever expired first.

  • If a work was created in 2016, 120 years from date of creation would be 2136. It would fall into public domain on January 1st, 2137.
  • If a work was published in 2018, 95 years from date of publication would be 2113. It would fall into public domain on January 1st, 2114.
  • Since it would expire first from date of publication, it would fall into the public domain in 2114 rather than 2137.

-My employer would be the owner of copyright as well as the author


The purpose of this guide is to provide resources and information for resolving copyright questions. This research guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Katherine's Profile

Profile Photo
Katherine Greene
JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.
Associate Director for Resources & Copyright Support

Dahlgren Memorial Library
3900 Reservoir Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20057