When you create your own audio, video, images or any other form of intellectual property, you typically expect that you can copyright it and later use that intellectual property to draw an income for yourself. In some situations though, you might not own the copyright to one of your works.
Whether you own a copyright usually depends on whether you create a work for yourself or a company that you own, or if you develop the intellectual property for another party. Stanford University describes some different scenarios in which you might not own the copyright to the work you create.
Works made as an employee
You might work as an employee for another company. Over the course of your employment, your job may require you to create or contribute to a project like an audio-video work or a website design. However, since the company owns whatever you create as an employee, the company will also retain the copyright on those works.
Works made as an independent contractor
If you do work for another company or a person as an independent contractor, matters become a little more complicated. It is possible you may create something that you own the copyright for, just as long as it is not something you create over the course of your employment or something that is part of a “work for hire” contract that you agree to.
When you sell your copyright
If you have sole ownership over your own copyright, you have the option to license out your rights to another company to create products based on your intellectual property. However, you might decide your copyright is of no further use to you. In this situation, you can choose to sell the copyright completely. If so, you will have no more ownership of it once your transaction is complete.