Work carried out in the course of employment

In order for the copyright to vest in an employer, it is not sufficient merely that the work is made by an author who is employed under a contract of service. It must also be made in the course of that employment.

In the case of Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison Ltd v Macdonald & Evans [1952] 1 T.L.R. 101. a management consultant, who drafted lectures for universities who were dealing with the company which employed him, was held not to do so in the course of his employment. Â This was regardless of the fact that lectures served as an advertisement for his company, he was paid expenses for his efforts and some of his services were for the benefit of the company. Â The work was not part of his normal duties and he could not have been instructed to give the lectures in the course of his employment.Â

In the case of Noah v Shuba [1991] F.S.R. 14, a consultant epidemiologist wrote a guide on hygiene in relation to skin-piercing activities at home at weekends and after work without being asked to do the work by his employers was deemed not to have done so in the course of his employment even though the books preparation was part of his official duties and was his employer’s publication.

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A problem arises in distinguishing was is/is not in the course of employment as employees will often do things for his employer which they are not contracted to do. Therefore, whether something is done in the course of employment must be determined on a case by case basis.Â

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If you are contracted to do the work you have carried out, or if the work you carried out was part of your contract then it will be likely that the work will be deemed to be in the course of employment.Â

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The fact that you have completed work outside normal working hours does not necessarily mean that that work has not been done in the course of employment. Today there is no exact line between what hours are/are not working hours.Â

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If the work (1) is within the scope of the employment contract and (2) was done for the benefit of the employer, it will be deemed to have been done in the course of employment…. regardless if it was done in your own time!

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By Michael Coyle at Lawdit Solicitors, Southampton.

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