What is a work made for hire?
As defined by the Copyright Act, there are two situations where a work is considered a “work made for hire.” First, if the work is created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment, it is a work made for hire. Second, if the work is specially ordered or commissioned and there is a written agreement, it may be a work for hire, if it is: (i) a contribution to a collective work; (ii) a part of an audiovisual work (including a motion picture); (iii) a translation; (iv) a supplementary work; (v) a compilation; (vi) an instructional text; (vii) a test; (viii) answer material for a test; or (ix) an atlas.
When something is a work for hire, the employer owns the copyright in the work and is considered the author, rather than the employee who actually created the work. Also, the duration of the copyright protection is different than for other works - normally, a copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, but for a work for hire, a copyright lasts for 95 years from the time the work for hire is published or 120 from the time it is created.