I have been able to successfully work remotely during the pandemic. As a result, and since my office lease is expiring, I have decided to continue my law practice from my new office location.


Accordingly, effective immediately, my office address will change from  230 Park Avenue, Suite 660, New York, NY 10169 to 80 Country Ridge Drive, Rye Brook, NY 10573


I can now be reached at my mobile number (917) 848-9373.  We will no longer be using the phone number of (212) 481-1850. Please delete that number from any records and replace it with the new one. My email address, however, is remaining the same,, as will my website,



Joel received his J.D. from New York University School of Law and is a repeat  Super Lawyer. He brings a broad perspective to his practice, which includes the negotiation and drafting of contracts and agreements of all types. He prides himself on being able to successfully resolve disputes by creative means.


Joel regularly counsels clients in all aspects of photography and visual arts law, copyright, licensing, publishing, contracts, privacy rights, digital media, and other intellectual property issues. Joel's practice also includes trademark, real estate, estate planning, wills, and litigation in both Federal and State courts. He has successfully litigated many cases in these areas across the country. Joel has acted as general counsel to hundreds of the professional photographers, stock photo agencies, graphic artists, photography representatives, documentary filmmakers, and other photography and content-related businesses he has represented nationwide and abroad.


Joel has participated on legal panels and Symposia at the New York City Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section, St. John’s University School of Law in New York City, Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, and The Copyright Society of the U.S.A.  He also lectures and writes extensively on issues of concern, including articles in the New York Bar Association Journal, and The New York State Bar Association's Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal.


Joel is past Chair and member of the Copyright and Literary Property Committee of the New York City Bar Association, a member of the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section of the New York State Bar Association, and a long time member and past Trustee of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. Specific references to his articles and lectures may be located through internet search engines under the keywords: "Joel L. Hecker."


Second Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses Work Made For Hire Decision


The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had a recent occasion to discuss the issue of works made for hire. It was in the context of what constitutes a written instrument and when such an instrument needs to be signed in order to create a work made for hire. The case is The Estate of Stanley Kauffmann v. Rochester Institute of Technology and the decision was rendered on August 1, 2019. 1 It reversed the District Court decision which granted summary judgment to the

Statutory Basis of Work Made For Hire

Under the United States Copyright Act the creator of a work is deemed to be the owner of the copyright 2 unless it is a “work made for hire,” 3 which is defined in the statute as:

“In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the
work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless
the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by
them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.” 4

A work made for hire is either:

“(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work . . . if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.”


The facts were relatively straightforward as summarized in the Second Circuit Decision.

The parties to the litigation were the Estate of Stanley Kauffmann. Kauffmann, who was a film
critic and died in 2013, wrote 44 articles which first appeared in The New Republic magazine
(“TNR”) in 1999. The defendant is Rochester Institute of Technology (“RIT”) which published
an anthology of Kauffmann’s reviews after Kauffmann’s death. The anthology, titled The
Millennial Critic: Stanley Kauffmann on Film: 1999-2009
, 6 included these 44 Kauffmann’s film
reviews from 1999.