Brief Fact Summary. Reid (Defendant) created a sculpture on commission from the Community for Creative Non-Violence (Plaintiff), and contended that since he had not been employed by it under common law agency principles, he owned the copyright of the sculpture.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under common-law agency principles, one who creates an artwork at the directive of another retains copyright upon it unless that other had employed the artist.
On the contrary, Congress intent to incorporate the agency law definition is suggested by § 101(1)'s use of the term, scope of employment, a widely used term of art in agency law.View Full Point of Law
Issue.Under common-law agency principles, does one who creates an artwork at the directive of another retains copyright upon it unless that other had employed the artist?
Held.(Marshall, J.)Â Yes.Â Under common-law agency principles, one who creates an artwork at the directive of another retains copyright upon it unless that other had employed the artist.Â 17 U.S.C. Â§ 201 (a) provides that copyright ownership vests initially in the work’s author, something Reid (Defendant) in this case obviously was.Â Section 101 of the 1976 Copyright Act creates an exception to this in the case of works created â€œfor hire.â€Â Section 101(2) mandates copyright vestiture in the case where the author is an independent contractor of another, in specific instances not applicable in this case.Â Section 101(1) provides that the work is one created â€œfor hireâ€ if the work is created by an employee within the scope of his employment, and this subsection is the only one that can divest Reid (Defendant) of copyright therein.Â â€œEmployeeâ€ is not defined in the section.Â This being so, the rule comes into play that words used in a statute will be presumed to possess their normal meanings.Â Contrary to CCNV’s (Plaintiff) assertions, â€œemployeeâ€ is a narrower term than one over whom another exercises a measure of control.Â Rather, â€œemployeeâ€ has a particular meaning, derived from common-law agency principles, wherein one party performs labor for another under circumstances in which that other exerts substantial control over the work environment on the laborer, as well as the manner of performance.Â Numerous factors figure in this equation, such as the level of skill required, tax treatment of the putative employee, the singleness of the assignment, and the source of the instrumentalities of the labor.Â In this instance, the work was highly skilled; Reid (Defendant) was retained only for this single assignment, was not treated as an employee for tax purposes, and provided his own work area and tools.Â The conclusion is mandated that, under agency principles, Defendant was not an employee of P.Â Therefore, the Â§ 101(1) exception to Â§ 201(a) does not apply, and the copyright belongs to Reid (Defendant).Â Affirmed.
Discussion.Sections 101(1) and 101(2) were the result of lengthy debate and compromise in Congress.Â Before 19555, any commissioned work belonged to the hiring party.Â For the next several years, changes in this rule were proposed many times.Â Finally, in 1965 the substantive embodiment of current law was enacted.