Many business owners utilize the services of independent contractors or virtual workers to create content for their business. Services that are generally outsourced to such workers may include email marketing, blogging, website content creation, the creation of print materials, white papers, formal reports, and more.
But, when it comes to the ownership of the materials created by an independent contractor or temporary worker, business owners may be surprised to learn that they don’t actually retain the rights to the work produced without a clear agreement in place.
That’s because under Copyright Law, it’s the author who legally holds the Copyright to any work that he or she creates. This is true even if you paid the author for the content and it was created for the sole purpose of being used in your business.
Fortunately, business owners can utilize “Work for Hire” and/or assignment agreements to ensure that ownership rights of all work created by an employee or contractor as part of their job are transferred to the client or business owner who purchased the work essentially ensuring client or business is considered the author and owner from the time of creation. The term “Work for Hire” is used generally to discuss agreements that transfer ownership, but there are only specific circumstances where the Work for Hire doctrine applies (see below). If you do not fall into one of those categories a properly drafted Work For Hire agreement would provide protection to ensure that the work is transferred to the commissioning party via assignment despite not falling with in one of those categories. Under such case it would be an assignment of the copyright at the time of creation, rather than a work for hire and the author would still be the artist.
A Work for Hire Agreement is a specially written document that would be signed by both parties before any work begins. Under the Work for Hire doctrine, protection exists under two circumstances:
- Work created by independent contractors:
- Again, an agreement must be signed by the business owner and independent contractor before work is started.
- The work in question must be specifically ordered and the contractor must be paid to create something new.
- The work in question must also fall under one of nine statutory categories of commissioned works under the Copyright Act (1. as a contribution to a collective work, 2. as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, 3. as a translation, 4. as a supplementary work, 5. as a compilation, 6. as an instructional text, 7. as a test, 8. as answer material for a test, or 9. as an atlas).
- Work prepared by an employee:
In most cases work prepared by an employee within the scope of their employment is considered Work for Hire.
If you don’t currently have a Work for Hire agreement in place, consider working with a qualified copyright attorney who can create, and ultimately tailor, the contract to meet the specific needs of your business. This agreement should then be used as part of the regular hiring and onboarding process to provide maximum protection and peace of mind.
If you do not have a Work for Hire agreement that you can use in your business to protect yourself and the rights to the work created on your behalf, we invite you to contact our New York and South Carolina Copyright lawyers to schedule a consultation. We are also happy to meet with clients across the country via phone or video conference, if you are not near one of our locations in order to help you create the legal agreements that are necessary to protect your business and intellectual property rights.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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