As an attorney whose practice consists largely consists of dealing with copyrights, in both transactions and litigation, I must correct you on the following points:
Originally Posted by HapiSofi
1) There's no such thing as a publisher's copyright with an underlying auctorial copyright; Copyright is a function of authorship. Work for hire is a transfer, not of the copyright or any of the endlessly divisible rights which comprise it, but of the authorship of the work, from which all copyright claims flow. An author who transfers his or her work under a work for hire contract loses authorship and becomes, in the eyes of the law, a mere appendage of the "true" author--the work for hire transferee.
2) Copyright is copyright. If the publisher has it, the author doesn't, and vice-versa, unless they copyright it jointly. The author is still the author. What they lose is the copyright.
The transfer of authorship is what renders work for hire fundamentally different from an all-rights transfer. An author who grants a licensee or assignee all rights under the copyright still retains his or her authorship. In a standard publishing contract, this means that the rights will revert to the author if/when certain conditions are met (e.g., the work goes out of print), because the underlying copyright resides with the author. Even under a contract in which the author transfers "all rights in perpetuity in all media now known or hereinafter invented," the author, or his or her heirs, retains the right (under current law) to terminate the transfer after 35 years, the contract terms notwithstanding. Someone who has relinquished authorship under a work for hire agreement forfeits termination rights; he or she is no longer the author.
In the course of practice over the last fifteen years, I have frequently found attorneys working in the copyright field who do not understand the fundamental distinction between all-rights transfers, under which authorship is retained, and work for hire, under which authorship itself is transferred.
You are correct on the following points--none of which, by the way, contradict anything I have said:
1) Under a standard non-work-for-hire publishing contract, the author is the copyright holder;
2) Somewhere in the contract, there'll be a paragraph saying that the publisher shall copyright the book in the name of the author, and giving the exact form of the name under which it shall be copyrighted;
3) Actual transfers of copyright are quite rare, outside of commissioned work, work-for-hire contracts, tie-ins and other proprietary projects. If it was the author's book to start with, the publisher ought not be asking for the copyright.