Copyright on a cartoon Character I developed while working

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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Copyright on a cartoon Character I developed while working

Post by stefmorph »

Hi there, I have a problem.

While working for a company as an employee, I developed a cartoon character. I never signed any agreement with regard to copyright and neither did the Company I work for. I have since left the Company in question and want to use the Character I created while working for them. Do I own the copyright?

Please can anyone answer this question for me.

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Stef,
A lot depends on whether your job description included making cartoon characters. What the law says:
11 First ownership of copyright.
(1) The author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it, subject to the following provisions.

(2) Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or a film, is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.

(3) This section does not apply to Crown copyright or Parliamentary copyright (see sections 163 and 165) or to copyright which subsists by virtue of section 168 (copyright of certain international organisations).
"In the course of" can have a reasonably wide meaning. For example if your job description did not actually require you to draw cartoon characters, but one day your line manager asked you to because she knew you were artistic and it was related to some promotional work you were employed to do, and you didn't object at the time then this might well be seen as in the course of your employment. However to take a different example, based on an actual case from some years ago, a court decided that an accountant who in his own time presented a lecture on tax was the owner of the copyright in his lecture notes because his work for his firm did not require him to give lectures, and his company had not asked him to prepare the notes, even though it was part of his job to provide tax advice to clients.
As you can see from the wording of the statute, the default position is that if creating something is in the course of your employment, then the employer is the owner of the copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary, which you tell us is not the case here.
What is more, if the company do own the copyright, then you do not have any moral right to be credited as the author of the work, even though the length of the copyright term will be based on your lifetime plus 70 years.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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