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Can I use my coworker's personal artwork for work purpose?

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accd.211

Member
So just an update of this....I consult the copyright lawyer department of our company, to my surprise, the artwork (product related images, videos) my coworker created are automatically owned by company. The only exception is the music that he created for the video...I was told the reason that company doesn't own the copyright of the video is because our company is not in the music/entertainment business.
 


quincy

Senior Member
So just an update of this....I consult the copyright lawyer department of our company, to my surprise, the artwork (product related images, videos) my coworker created are automatically owned by company. The only exception is the music that he created for the video...I was told the reason that company doesn't own the copyright of the video is because our company is not in the music/entertainment business.
Thank you for the update.

If your coworker creates artwork as part of his regular job at the company, the company lawyer is correct that the company would (in most cases) hold the copyrights.

The company would not "automatically own" copyrights in a work created by someone outside the company. There would need to be a written agreement signed by the artist transferring the rights.

The company also would not "automatically own" works created by an employee that fall outside an employee's work duties unless determined to be a work made for hire.

If rights are transferred, or if the work is a work made for hire, the music/video/artwork can all be transferred. The type of company does not make a difference to what rights can be transferred.
 
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justalayman

Senior Member
So just an update of this....I consult the copyright lawyer department of our company, to my surprise, the artwork (product related images, videos) my coworker created are automatically owned by company. The only exception is the music that he created for the video...I was told the reason that company doesn't own the copyright of the video is because our company is not in the music/entertainment business.
Based on what you stated in your original post I would say your legal counsel is wrong

A coworker is very talented in creating artwork, but his role at company has nothing to do with it. He created some artwork using his own time for me, and those are completely free and out of his goodwill. Could there be any issue for me to use these artwork for work purpose?
Either the counselor was not provided the full set of facts or he doesn’t understand copyright law.
 

accd.211

Member
Could you elaborate why the legal counsel is wrong? From what I understood, if the artwork is related to the company's product, it is owned by the company.
 

justalayman

Senior Member
Could you elaborate why the legal counsel is wrong? From what I understood, if the artwork is related to the company's product, it is owned by the company.
The artist did not create the work as part of his regular work duties therefore it is not owned by the company unless he transfers the rights, in writing, to the company.


It really doesn’t matter what the work covers (such as a product produced by the company). Quincy addressed such possibilities in a previous post discussing copyright issues when they run into trademark rights issues. (Post 11)
 

quincy

Senior Member
Could you elaborate why the legal counsel is wrong? From what I understood, if the artwork is related to the company's product, it is owned by the company.
If a work that is created falls within the scope of an employee's employment, the copyrights belong to the employer as a work made for hire.

Works created independent of employment belong to an employer with written agreement between the creator of the work and the employer.

I am not sure if the lawyer you spoke to got it wrong or if you misunderstood what the lawyer told you.
 

justalayman

Senior Member
I suggest the following statement pretty much shoots a work product claim in the foot

. A coworker is very talented in creating artwork but his role at company has nothing to do with it
And this statement clearly shows it was not a work for hire:


He created some artwork using his own time for me, and those are completely free and out of his goodwill.
]


It’s a bit concerning that legal counsel, specifically one advising on copyright law for their company, would state the work is owned by the company. I surely hope there was a misunderstanding either by the counselor or our op.
 

accd.211

Member
Thanks, I would agree based on reasonable logic that the coworker owns the copyright. But I was clear with my lawyer that the coworker's role is a testing engineer, that has nothing to do with his artwork. Thank you both for the input, I will check with my company again.
 

quincy

Senior Member
Thanks, I would agree based on reasonable logic that the coworker owns the copyright. But I was clear with my lawyer that the coworker's role is a testing engineer, that has nothing to do with his artwork. Thank you both for the input, I will check with my company again.
Your understanding of copyright ownership seems closer than the company lawyer's understanding. :)

If the coworker was commissioned to do a work about a company's product, again, the company can control use of the product and how it is depicted but your coworker can control the use of his depiction of the product.

In other words, neither your coworker nor the company can use the whole of the project without permission from the other. Permission (and the extent/scope of the permission) should be granted in the form of a written and signed agreement (license, transfer, contract).

I think another discussion with the company would be smart.

We appreciate the thanks. Good luck.
 

quincy

Senior Member
OP also talked to her own lawyer about this, and her own lawyer said the same thing as the company lawyer.
The lawyers either have information that has not been provided here (or different information) or they are wrong/mistaken on the ownership of the copyrights.
 

quincy

Senior Member
oh sorry for the confusion, I refer the company lawyer to "my lawyer", so just one source where I got the information from...
Thank you for the clarification. I understood from your posts that there was only one lawyer but I thought perhaps I misread. :)

I think you are smart to speak to the company lawyer again or you might want to speak to an IP attorney in your area who is not affiliated with your company.

Good luck.


Edit to add, after rereading the information in your posts:

You say in one post that, "My coworker created those from scratch .." but in another post you say, "The raw drawings that the artwork is built on belongs to the company/project."

A question: Who did these "raw drawings?" Your coworker?
 
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accd.211

Member
Thank you for the clarification. I understood from your posts that there was only one lawyer but I thought perhaps I misread. :)

I think you are smart to speak to the company lawyer again or you might want to speak to an IP attorney in your area who is not affiliated with your company.

Good luck.


Edit to add, after rereading the information in your posts:

You say in one post that: "The raw drawings that the artwork is built on belongs to the company/project."

A question: Who did these "raw drawings?" Your coworker?
Thanks~
The raw drawings are from project team. Another engineer created it. but it is openly shared among the project team. In a few months, it'll be publicly available.
 
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