A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Finds Computer Program to Be a Work-for-Hire

In a February 3, 2016 ruling, Judge Colleen McMahon declined to dismiss the plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim, finding that the defendant’s computing programming services under a written agreement constituted a “work-for-hire” under the Copyright Act. Judge McMahon found that the defendant’s work was specially commissioned pursuant to a written agreement designating the work as a “work-for-hire.” On the issue of whether the work fit into one of the nine statutory categories for which the work-for-hire doctrine applies, the Court found that the computer programs written by the defendant were either compilations or contributions to collective works. Specifically, the Court wrote:
Here, [the defendant] created and combined a number of different computer programs to create [the plaintiff’s] new software system. This new system was comprised of various elements including an open source framework, compression software, a multi-protocol library written by [the defendant’s associate], a "referral" program, anti-fraud software, routing algorithms, and code for an entirely new . . . website. . . .The system as a whole is properly deemed a compilation of computer programs. Alternatively, the source code for each program can be deemed a contribution to the "collective work" that is [the plaintiff’s] system. Thus, [the defendant’s] work falls into one of the nine categories enumerated in [17 U.S.C.] § 101(2).
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