If you create a product at work, who owns the rights to it — you or your employer? Does the graphic artist own the rights to work she produces for the advertising studio for whom she works? Does the tech writer own the rights to the manual he drafted? Well, I hate to sound like the lawyer that I am, but the answer is...it depends. The thought that an employee might be able to claim ownership to a product created at work should concern many businesspeople.
Consider this true–life story: A community group commissioned a sculptor to create a sculpture for their building. They told the sculptor exactly what they wanted. Then he went ahead and created it, and they paid him in full. Later, a dispute arose over who had the right to reproduce the sculpture. In a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, it was decided that the sculptor owned all rights to the work.
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the law presumes that an employer owns the copyright and all related rights to any work created in the scope of employment. The key here is whether the work was created as a result of the employer–employee relationship. The legal term for this is work made for hire.
Courts will look at the following factors when deciding whether an item was a work made for hire, and therefore owned by the employer: