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 On 12/10/2010 11:31 AM, Aaron M. Ucko wrote:
I agree with you, but also with those who observed that the notion of a
federal agency holding copyright is a bit odd; published US government
work falls into the public domain, and I would expect a work for hire
(by a contractor) to have a corresponding copyright holder.

Works created by the federal government itself cannot be copyrighted; 17 U.S.C. § 105. However, a contractor (not an employee) by definition (17 U.S.C. § 101) can only create "a work made for hire" where that work is:

a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work;

a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work;

a translation;

a supplementary work ("a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes");

a compilation;

an instructional text ("literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities");

a test;

answer material for a test; or

an atlas.

Ergo, something created by an independent contractor *for* the government could still be copyrighted.

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