Who Owns Copyright in Works by Volunteers?

A volunteer creates an image or logo for a special exhibit or event. You use that logo on a number of print materials and include it on your website. Can you adapt the logo and use it on one of your publications?

A volunteer creates a short video about your organization. Can you place it on your blog? Use it at your annual conference? Post it on YouTube?

A volunteer writes an article for your organization’s newsletter. Can you republish the article in a book? Translate it into another language? What if another organization wants to publish the article on its website?

Whether it be an article, image, video, business plan, table based on research, or other type of content, it is possible that the material being created by your volunteers is automatically protected by copyright (yes, even without registering the material or using a copyright symbol). At some point, the question may arise as to who owns the copyright in the work of your volunteers. Don’t wait and be surprised by the answer at a critical time, such as after an article or image created by a volunteer appears in your print publication. Understand your organization’s rights and those of your volunteers at the time you ask a volunteer to create a piece of work for you.

The bottom line is this: generally, a volunteer will own any works he or she creates while volunteering for your organization. That is because the volunteer is the creator/first author of the work, by virtue of being the first person to put it into some sort of fixed form. Read more.

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