Who Can Make a Copyright Claim?

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Question: Who Can Make a Copyright Claim?

Answer: Copyright protection exists automatically from the moment the work (painting, song, novel, etc.) is created in fixed form. The copyright belongs to the person who created the work. Only the author or somebody who is given the rights to the work by the author can rightfully make a copyright claim.

Note that copyright protection does not exist in perpetuity -- as a general rule, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the creator, at which point the work enters the public domain.



Work For Hire

Copyrights do not belong to the creator in the case of works made for hire, for example; when you are hired to write songs. The employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. Copyright law defines a "work for hire" as a work prepared by an employee as part of his or her employment.

A work for hire is also a work specially ordered or commissioned for use. For example someone could be hired to make: a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a compilation, an instructional text, a test, answer material for a test, a sound recording, or an atlas.

Joint Works

The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

Collective Works

In the case of a collective work for example a magazine; an author holds the copyright to one article of a magazine but not to the collective work of the entire magazine.

Two General Principles of a Copyright Claim

Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. For example, if you buy a painting, you own the painting, but not the rights to copy the painting. Likewise, buying an album does not grant you copyright privileges to the recording.

Copyright privileges have to be negotiated for separately.


Minors have a copyright claim, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors.

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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Who Can Make a Copyright Claim?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/who-can-make-a-copyright-claim-1991429. Bellis, Mary. (2017, March 3). Who Can Make a Copyright Claim? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-can-make-a-copyright-claim-1991429 Bellis, Mary. "Who Can Make a Copyright Claim?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-can-make-a-copyright-claim-1991429 (accessed December 12, 2017).