Stevenson, Jordan Harrison Ltd v MacDonald & Evans [1952] 1 TLR 101

Definition of an employee under a ‘contract of service’ for the purposes of determining the copyright of a work.


An engineer wrote a book that used knowledge that he acquired whilst he was working for a firm in different capacities. Section 5(1) of the Copyright Act 1911 provides that that if the author of a work was under “a contract of service,” then the first owner of the copyright shall be the person by whom the author was employed.


The question arose as to whether the person was considered to be an employee under a “contract of service” for the purposes of allotting copyright to the employer under Section 5(1) of the Copyright Act 1911.


The Court distinguished between a “contract of service” and “contract for services” provided to the firm. The Court applied the traditional ‘control test’ concerning whether the employer has the right to control the way in which a person does the work. The Court further stipulated that a person is considered an employee under a “contract of service” when the work is integrated in that of the business and considered an integral part of the business, whereas an independent contractor for services is merely an accessory to the business and, thus, not an employee. On the facts of the case, the Court concluded that the engineer’s contract was mixed between the two at different times. It held that the engineer was the author of the work, but that specific material that he acquired whilst he was an employee fell within the Copyright Act 1911 and should be excluded from the publication.

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