Okay after doing more research I believe I have found answers to my questions, and will post them for anyone in a similar situation/who feel curious!
Firstly, I am going to use an example situation for clarity:
- I am a social media manager volunteer for some organization X which produces shoes.
- I have not been asked to create any graphical content for them, but think it would be fun to use original content in social media posts for X.
- I draw an image of some shoes (image A), and decide it would make for a nice & relevant post for X.
- I edit image A to be more personalized to X including slapping their trademarked name on it and removing my personal signature. This creates image B.
- I post image B directly to X's social media on behalf of X (e.g. I do not state anywhere that I am the author of the post and use the pronouns "we" and "us").
- The creation & posting of image B is done without needed approval from X. Although, in good faith, I would make my plans aware to X after image B creation and before posting it.
- At no point do I give them image B. At no point do I associate image A with their organization - in fact X may not even be aware of image A's existence outside of image B, and I may use image A outside of X.
To start - here are some basic ownership tidbits that would apply to images A and B:
Since images A and B are produced purely voluntarily and not done as a work-for-hire, pro-bono, or as a part of any sort of contract for someone else then I would get ownership of them upon creation:
Except under certain circumstances (see “work made for hire” below), you own the copyright in your work at the moment you create it in a “fixed” form of “expression.” [...] You own your copyright unless you sign a written assignment giving copyright ownership to someone else.
Might be useful to note here that I am not a graphic designer, nor do I have plans to pursue it professionally.
- Since there is no sort of transfer between me and X where I give them rights to image B (or honestly even give them access to image B since I do not plan on emailing any files), I would maintain initial ownership via the Copyright Law of the USA:
§ 204 . Execution of transfers of copyright ownership
(a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent.
Now, here are what I believe to be the answers to my questions:
QUESTION 1. My biggest curiosity here was if by basically acting as an employee of a organization, despite not being associated with it past being a garden-variety volunteer, does that mean that I enter into some sort of work-for-hire situation?
From my research online the answer seems to be no. First off, it's not so much what you do for an organization as what you agree to do for an organization. For X to have rights over my work I would have had to at some point sign something, or given some sort of verbal/written consent that I would be creating works for X. Since image B is created independently, and is posted to X's online account in good faith without any contract or written acknowledgement of it's creation/usage for X I should retain initial ownership.
Another thing that I wanted to know was if by posting on behalf of X (e.g. not identifying myself as the creator of the work, using plural pronouns, etc.) if that would somehow muddy the waters and provide X with ownership or co-ownership of my work? Again, the answer seems to be no. Just because I am not actively defining/defending ownership of a work does not mean that is some sort of waiver of ownership. In general it seems like it's pretty hard to lose copyright without some sort of explicit statement being made:
In fact, you cannot lose your copyright if people copy your work — no matter how much it is copied. Your work will not fall into the public domain if someone copybots it or rips it. [..] You also can’t lose your copyright if you don’t defend it. [...] You don’t lose your copyright if you don’t register the work. You don’t lose your copyright if you distribute you work under a Creative Commons license. You don’t lose your copyright if you give someone non-exclusive rights to your work
QUESTION 2&3. Mostly I wanted to know if by including an organization's trademark in my work can they claim ownership of it? The answer again seems to be no.
Even though image B is clearly made for X (based on the use of X's trademarked name and logo) I still maintain initial ownership of it, as a protection of my creative work. Since image B contains X's trademarked name they can naturally ask me to cease-and-desist given proper grounds, as a protection of their name. However, they cannot claim ownership of my work simply because it contains their trademark as trademarks & copyrights are two different types of IP rights that don't make implications about the other.