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An employee is

[a]n individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration (does not include an independent contractor or those engaged in casual domestic employment).[1]

U.S. copyright law[]

U.S. copyright law does not define the term employee. In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employment relationship determination for work made for hire purposes should be made by reference to the "general common law of agency."[2] The central question in an agency law inquiry is whether the hiring party has the "right to control the manner and means by which the product is accomplished."[3]

The factors to be considered include the skill required, the source of the instrumentalities and tools used in creating the work, where the work was created, the duration of the relationship between the parties, whether the hiring party has the right to assign additional projects to the hired party, the method of payment, the extent of the hired party's discretion over when and how long to work, the hired party's role in hiring and paying assistants, whether the hiring party is in business and whether the work is part of the regular business of the hiring party, the provision of employee benefits, and the tax treatment of the hired party.[4] The Court did not specify any factors that should be weighed more heavily than others, but made clear that an "employee" under the Copyright Act is not limited to a formal, salaried employee.

U.S. government[]

A U.S. government employee is

a person, other than the President and Vice President, employed by, detailed or assigned to, an agency, including members of the Armed Forces. Experts or consultants to an agency; staff of an industrial or commercial contractor, licensee, certificate holder, or grantee of an agency, including all subcontractor staff; all personal services contractor staff; or any other classification of individuals who act for or on behalf of an agency as determined by the appropriate agency head are equally covered by this definition for many if not all purposes.[5]


  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Glossary (full-text).
  2. See Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730, 740-41 (1989) (full-text).
  3. Id. at 751.
  4. Id. at 751-52.
  5. Department of the Interior, Departmental Manual, Part 441, Chapter 1, §1.6(N) (Jan. 8, 2010) (as defined in Executive Order 12968).