Stevenson, Jordan Harrison Ltd v MacDonald & Evans – Case Summary

Stevenson, Jordan Harrison Ltd v MacDonald & Evans

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1952] 1 TLR 101.


The author of a book was a management engineer. The book contained knowledge he gained working for the claimant, both as an employee and later as an executive officer. The rest of the book was based on lectures the author gave and material acquired while out on assignments. The author died before the book was published. The claimant asserted ownership of the copyright in the book.

s.5(1) of the Copyright Act 1911 granted first copyright to the author of a work, unless they were an employee and made the work in the course of their employment (in which case it went to the employer).

  1. Could the claimant assert copyright over the book or any part of it?

The Court held that the author was the owner of the copyright in the book in general, but that some of the material should be redacted. The author’s contracts with the claimant were mixed: sometimes he was an employee, sometimes an independent contractor. Overall, the book was not made in the course of the author’s employment, though some parts were.

This Case is Authority For…

The Court distinguished between a ‘contract of service’ – which made the worker an employee – and a ‘contract for services’ – which made them an independent contractor. The court identified two factors as particularly relevant to whether a person was an employee or independent contractor:

  • The ‘control test’: whether the employer has the right to control how the work is done. Heavy control indicates that the person is an employee.
  • The ‘integration test’: the extent to which the person is ‘integrated’ into the employer’s business. This might be demonstrated by the person wearing a company uniform or working on company property, for example. Significant integration indicates that the person is an employee.