Audiovisual Works and the Work for Hire Doctrine in the Internet Age

John L. Schwab

Audiovisual Works and the Work for Hire Doctrine in the Internet Age
Schwab, John L.
Persistent URL:
Book/Journal Title:
Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts
Geographic Area:
United States
Chris Carter was one of the most successful writers and creators of television in the 1990s. His works include "Millennium" and, most prominently, "The X-Files." Mr. Carter created "The X-Files" and was the program's 'showrunner,' meaning he either made or approved every creative decision associated with each episode—including the writing, the direction, the set design, the costuming and the editing. As is common in the world of audiovisual entertainment, Mr. Carter did not own the copyright to "The X-Files." This created a problem for Mr. Carter, since the commercial success of "The X-Files" made it a prime candidate for syndication. Syndication, also known as second run programming, is the most lucrative aspect of television production. The owner of "The X-Files," Twentieth Century Fox Television, sold the program's syndication rights to a separate Fox subsidiary, the FX Network. This original sale led to allegations of self-dealing. Fox subsequently resyndicated the program with a competitor, NBC Universal's USA Network. When Fox resyndicated, however, the studio claimed that the agreement with USA was not a new syndication agreement, but, rather, an assignment of the original agreement with FX. This distinction was particularly important for Mr. Carter because his employment agreement guaranteed him a percentage of each syndication agreement entered into by Fox. If the deal with USA was simply an assignment, Mr. Carter was due no portion of a lucrative contract. Mr. Carter promptly filed suit to enforce what he believed were his syndication rights.
Television broadcasting
Program on Legal Aspects of the Entertainment Industry
Television reruns
Intellectual property
Writers Guild of America
Work Made for Hire and Copyright Corrections Act of 2000 (United States)
Item views
text | xml
Suggested Citation:
John L. Schwab, , Audiovisual Works and the Work for Hire Doctrine in the Internet Age, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

Columbia University Libraries | Policies | FAQ