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Non-profits, Volunteers, and Copyrights –

Sharing of learned knowledge – Many within Indian Hills may be involved with various different non-profit organizations and in various different roles, often as volunteers.  An important question that may arise during the ordinary course of business within a non-profit is who owns the works created by the volunteers and, additionally, who owns the copyright of those created works by volunteers.

From business plans, event ideas, images, music, puns, slogans, or even website or social media posts created by volunteers within a nonprofit, who is the lawful owner?

For those of you who own/run a non-profit organization, you may want to learn and know: per the US copyright law, volunteers own the copyrights for all things they create while volunteering for the non-profit; unless the non-profit has a signed written agreement with all the volunteers where all volunteers transfer ownership of items created as well as ownership of all copyrights to those materials to the non-profit corporation. If no signed agreement exists, the volunteer(s) own all works and copyrights of those works they created while volunteering. This is very different from if an individual is employed within a business, all works created by employees and the copyrights of the created work are generally owned by the business.

Two excellent references provided by multiple lawyers on a recent conference call discussing business and nonprofits, copyrights and trademarks, and numerous other topics are: and

Do the due diligence, pay for a copyright attorney when needed, and protect the works you have created and the copyrights you own. If the non-profit desires to own all works created and copyrighted by the volunteers for the non-profit, the non-profit must create agreements, and obtain signatures from the volunteers.


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