Normally, if an employee of your company produces a creative work in the course of his/her employment, that work will automatically belong to the company. It is fairly common, however, to hire an independent contractor to design your logo, develop architectural plans, or make graphics or artwork. Because that contractor does not work for your company, his/her creations may not actually be yours.
Generally, an independent contractor will have ownership rights to any work that they have created, even when you have hired and paid them to create something specifically for your company.
How Can I Obtain Ownership Rights When I Have Hired an Independent Contractor?
In order to gain ownership rights to a work created by an independent contractor, you should always have them sign a written agreement specifying that you will own the work that they have created for your company.
Copyright law provides that the company who has hired an independent contractor will not own the work that the contractor creates, unless it is deemed a "work for hire" in the written agreement between the parties.
What Is a Work For Hire?
In order to qualify as a work for hire, the independent contractor's creation must fall into one of the following categories:
- A contribution to a collective work (such as a magazine, newspaper, or encyclopedia)
- Part of a movie or other audiovisual work
- a supplement to another work (an index, appendix, prologue, or bibliography)
- Instruction manuals
- The answer portion of a test/exam
Should I Contact an Attorney about My Ownership Issues?
The work that you have designed for your company, such as an artwork or logo can be extremely important to the success of your business. If you are hiring an independent contractor to produce creative work for your company, you should contact an intellectual property attorney. He or she can assist you in creating a written agreement between you and the contractor to make sure that you retain ownership to the work that you have paid for.