Asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property, Contracts and Internet Law for Texas

Q: I want to pay a freelancer directly to write texts for my website. What do I do to own copyright?

Do I need to create a contract or we can agree on terms in e-mail or a freelancer can sign a paper in free form saying that whenever they get paid for their work they transfer copyright ownership to me? My website is just .com, it’s not registered as a company.

2 Lawyer Answers
Evelyn Suero
Evelyn Suero
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Miami, FL

A: When working with an independent contractor it is good practice to have a signed written agreement where the contractor agrees that any intellectual property created while providing the services to you will be deemed "work for hire" and, if a court determines that the intellectual property does not qualify as work made for hire, that it is nonetheless assigned to you (and that he/she will execute any document assigning the intellectual property to you). An assignment is not valid unless it is in writing and is signed by the owner of the rights conveyed. This is a complicated area of law and you should speak with legal counsel to assist you with preparation of such agreements.

Barbara Berschler agrees with this answer

Barbara Berschler
Barbara Berschler
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD

A: It will be an issue you will need to negotiate with the independent contractor/web developer. She may have her own contract, so you need to be sure that the issues covered in Ms Suero's answer are addressed. But also, you want to know the source of any 3rd party content that the developer may use. You will want to know under what authority she is acting when including the content and what rights will you acquire. There are a number of other issues to be considered. Working with an attorney familiar with copyright/trademark issues would be most helpful.

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