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What is a "work made for hire"?

A "work made for hire" is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances for someone else. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author and is the owner of the copyright.

What is "publication"?

"Publication" has a technical meaning in copyright law. As defined in the copyright statute: "Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication." Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public.

TIP: Note that publication is not required for copyright protection.

What is a "collective work"?

A "collective work" is a work in which a number of contributions are assembled into a collective whole. Authorship of the collective work as a whole includes the elements of revising, editing, compiling and similar authorship that went into putting the work into final form.

What is a "compilation"?

A "compilation" is a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. The term "compilation" includes collective works.

What is a "derivative work"?

A "derivative work" is a work based upon one or more pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work."

A "derivative work" may be entitled to copyright protection if the changes to the work are substantial and creative. Merely making editorial changes or other minor changes is not enough.

EXAMPLE: Simply making spelling corrections throughout a work does not warrant a new registration. However, adding an additional chapter, illustrations or new index would be substantial changes entitling the work to be registered.

What does "fixed in a tangible medium of expression" mean?

This means the work must be or have been in a physical form, even if it is only for a second or so. The "form of expression" can be a computer memory or recording of a radio or TV broadcast.