Who’s the Author? A Bright-Line Rule for Specially Commissioned Works Made for Hire

Richard D. Paimieri

“Who’s the author” of this comment? Because my name appears at the top of this page and because I actually put fingers to keyboard to type out these words, most people would probably respond, “You are,” and wonder why I asked them who authored my own paper. If I asked a copyright practitioner the same question, however, she may have a very different response. Instead of assuming I am the author, she would recognize that, as a single piece written for inclusion in a periodical, this comment is part of a “collective work,” statutorily defined as “a work . . . in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole.” Because of this, the copyright practitioner would know my work may qualify as a “work made for hire” if certain other conditions are met. If they are, she would tell me that I am not the “author” (statutorily, anyway) despite the fact that I am the individual who “created” the work. Instead, “the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author,” which, in this case, would most likely be the University of Richmond Law Review (“Law Review”).

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