General ownership rules
The creator of an original work such as the author or artist is usually the first owner of any copyright in that work. There are two main exceptions:
- where a work is created in the course of employment, the employer will own copyright;
- where someone commissions, and agrees to pay for certain types of work – a photograph, painting, drawing, diagram, map, chart, plan, engraving, model, sculpture, film, sound recording or computer program – the commissioner will own copyright.
The above rules can be varied by agreement.
The Copyright Act specifically designates the owner of copyright in the typographical layout of a published edition as the publisher. This does not alter the ownership of copyright in the underlying material in the published edition, such as the text, illustrations or photographs, which will generally be owned by the author or artist (or employer or commissioner as applicable), unless there is agreement to the contrary.
In some cases, there may be more than one copyright owner in a work, for example, where two or more people collaborate on a work or where copyright has passed to several beneficiaries under a will. Often certain rights in a particular work can be assigned to collective management organisations.
Presumption as to authorship
Under the Copyright Act there are certain legal presumptions that protect authors. Where a person’s name appears as author on a published literary work, that person is presumed, until the contrary is proved, to be the author (and owner) of the work.