Stillwater, OK asked in Copyright, Employment Law and Communications Law for Oklahoma

Q: Can a company publish my article in their yearly publication after firing me, without crediting me or permission?

I was employed by a destination marketing organization. I was terminated because I believe they wanted to hire someone who required a much lower salary, but they blamed performance. I did not underperform, in fact, much of what I accomplished there is still benefiting them. For example, I wrote an article and it was published in a local magazine (while I was still there). I wanted to put my name on it, but my employer told me I had to say our TEAM did it. Now, after termination, I picked up their 2017 visitor's guide and my article is right in the front with no credit. It is accompanied by my images as well, with no credit. How can they get away with a wrongful termination(?) AND stealing my work? Can they fire me for an arbitrary reason when it's obviously really because they found someone they can pay much less? They shouldn't have hired me there if they couldn't afford me. OR if they need to make a cut for money, they should have called it a layoff. Am I way off here?

1 Lawyer Answer
Will Blackton
Will Blackton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: I'm only going to address the portion of your question relating to copyright law, that is: can your former employer legally publish your article without crediting you? Yes, almost certainly.

This is known as "work for hire." In the case of a work made for hire, copyright law provides that the author of the work is not the person whose individual creative efforts produced the work, but the party that employed or commissioned that person. As the author of the work made for hire, the employer or commissioning party owns the entire copyright, except if there is an express written agreement (likely an employment contract) to the contrary. If your employer owns the copyright to work that you produced, it can do with your work almost anything it would like. This certainly includes republishing it.

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