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I was chatting in a Facebook group this week when I saw this post:
“Help, my client wants me to sign over the copyright
A little later the same freelancer said
“I was planning to bundle it all up under my own brand later
Is this what you expect when you are outsourcing to a freelancer who is helping you create product and revenue for your brand?
Who needs the copyright?
It can feel a bit like a tug of war. Here is an example of where things went wrong.
I paid a designer to design business cards that could carry individual quotes. To my horror I found that each time I wanted a new quote dropped in the designer wanted to charge for a complete redesign and when I wanted to use the card design on my products they wanted extra again.
I quoted a low price for the work on the basis they would have to come back to me for more versions. I designed the six business cards as I was asked to. Now they want more work but they don’t want me to make any money on it.
Who owns the copyright?
If you have an employee the copyright in what you pay them to do is automatically yours
If you are using outsourced freelancers the copyright is automatically theirs
UNLESS they assign it to you.
Copyright can be ‘assigned’ or transferred from person to person or company to company, but if you haven’t sorted it out in a written agreement then your freelancer owns the copyright.
You don’t own the copyright just because you paid for the work to be done.
What is a REAL agreement?
A REAL agreement starts with a structured conversation and is:
- Realistic about who is doing what
- Ends well – makes it clear how things end and who owns what when they do
- Appropriate for the scale of your business and project
- Legal – handles the legal side of things from copyright to tax
All of these things need to be sorted out in plain ordinary language so you both know what it is you are agreeing to.
Have a REAL agreement
If you don’t have a conversation and you don’t have a written agreement then you can be happily thinking you own the exclusive rights to this material only to find that something like it appears on the market for another organisation who happens to share your VA, or your graphic designer etc.
We write freelance agreements on the basis that copyright in the work belongs to the client. We do this because it flushes out the ‘intending to use the material later’ conversation. If you have that conversation and deliberately want to change that, you can do that too.
You may decide that the freelancer who wants to use the work you paid for to launch their own range is not for you. But you will find that out before the work is done and before you paid them.
And by the way, when you buy our agreement you get a license to use it as often as you like within your own organisation.