Small Businesses and Work For Hire Agreements: Taking Control Of Your Business’s Intellectual Property

Small businesses hire independent contractors (otherwise known as freelancers) all the time—it’s a great way to get that extra work done on a project-by-project basis without the prolonged expense of hiring an employee. But if you’re hiring a freelancer to create something for you, which of you is the rightful owner of the final product? Where does the work for hire agreement come in?

Copyrights and Employees

What is a Work For Hire Agreement?
What is a work for hire agreement?
In a typical employer/employee relationship, anything your employee creates as a part of his or her regular job is the property of the employer. If your IT team codes websites during their workdays, the websites are the automatic property of the small business. It’s part of their jobs: no work for hire agreement necessary.

Copyrights and Independent Contractors

Independent contractors, however, are not typical employees, and they generally work under very different circumstances. You are not their employer—so the typical automatic copyright ownership does not occur here.

Many times, this distinction hardly matters for your purposes. The person who comes to fix your plumbing, the person who builds another cubicle wall, and the person who trains your staff on using the new fax machine do not create anything copyrightable, so ownership is not a question.

But what about a freelance web designer or freelance copywriter? In fact, if you simply hired them on an independent contract basis for a task, the freelancer would automatically own the resulting materials.

But wait! You don’t want your business website owned by an artist you hired years ago—you want your small business to own it outright. How do you achieve this?

The Work For Hire Agreement Specifies Ownership Upfront

A Work For Hire Agreement will ensure that your small business owns the intellectual property it hires someone to create.
A Work For Hire Agreement will ensure that your small business owns the intellectual property it hires someone to create.
Many a legal battle has been fought over the true ownership of written words, photographs, and graphic design. Don’t let this happen to you.

The work for hire agreement, signed by both an officer of the small business and the independent contractor, makes it clear right from the start that the business owns the work that they commissioned.

Without a work for hire agreement, your small business could have no more rights to its own website than I do. Make sure to establish and protect your control over your own intellectual property. The work for hire agreement can help.

[Download a fully customizable work for hire agreement for your small business!]

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