Suppose that an employer has hired a work-for-hire employee who was directed to produce some work for the employer. It was clearly stated in their contract that everything submitted by the employee must be their original work. Yet they have submitted content from another website (with some blatant copying and some mildly modified content) to the employer.

If the employer has used this content commercially, is the employer liable?

  • 1
    You might edit the question - plagiarizing is the academic dishonesty of taking credit for someone else's work. I think you are concerned about copyright infringement, an actual legal issue. Apr 23 at 3:44
  • Ah yes, you're right
    – rahs
    Apr 23 at 3:50
  • 3
    You also need to specify where your website and your commercial entity are located.
    – o.m.
    Apr 23 at 4:48

Liable, yes. How much liable, depends. There would be copyright infringement, and with copyright infringement the exact facts count. Like did you commit copyright infringement to make money, were you aware that you committed copyright infringement etc.

With your contract, it seems clear you didn't set out to commit copyright infringement to make money (because you paid someone else telling them not to commit copyright infringement). Up to the point where you learned what happened, you didn't know it was copyright infringement. After this, you better remove all the infringing works, because now you know it's copyright infringement, and now you are saving money by not hiring a second developer.

Obviously you can sue the employee for damages.

  • Yes, it sounds like classic agency law for "vicarous liability" of the employer for unlawful acts of the employee within the scope of their employment.
    – Upnorth
    Apr 29 at 2:01


Your employee is your agent, everything they do in the course of their employment is legally done by you.

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    "everything they do is legally done by you" Even murder?
    – bobcat
    Apr 23 at 5:32
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    @bobcat in the course of their employment - if your Butler is also retained as your hitman, then his killings on your order are your killings.
    – Trish
    Apr 23 at 9:11
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    "everything they do is legally done by you" You hire a babysitter, but she turns out to be a psycho and stabs your mailman. Do you go to prison in her stead?
    – bobcat
    Apr 23 at 15:04
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    I would love to practice law in a jurisdiction where the law is as simple as you guys think it is.
    – bdb484
    Apr 23 at 16:42
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    In Germany it's roughly "the employer is responsible if the employee can be said to be doing their job, even if they are doing it badly, incompetently, or against orders of the employer". If that babysitter feared the postman was going to kidnap the child, maybe. If an employee of a construction company pulls down the wrong house out of stupidity, definitely yes. But I think that's about damages, not about criminal prosecution.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 24 at 11:20

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