Freelancers' Questions: How to tackle copyright when hiring a freelancer?

Freelancer’s Question: I would like to hire a freelancer over the internet solely to record some audio files. The scripts have been written by me and all the freelancer will be doing is providing the actor and the recording facilities (providing the final sound file).

I think that hiring a freelancer in this sense is covered by a ‘contract for services’, whereby the freelancer has no automatic rights to copyright, as they are hired solely to do some work, nothing else. Is that correct?

However, I just wanted to make sure that nothing extra was needed from my end to ensure that it is understood that I own the copyrights for all audio.

To clarify, the scripts are mine but the audio itself comes from the freelancer. I pay the freelancer for his work, though I need to be sure that once the work is complete, the freelancer has no affiliation with the work produced.

Expert’s Answer: The general rule is very straightforward under employment contracts; where an employee creates a work capable of copyright protection in the course of their employment, the employer will be the first owner of copyright in the work unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary. This is NOT always the case for a freelancer/contractor working under a contract for services and so it is essential that the contract addresses the issue of intellectual property rights and specifically, in this instance, copyright.

Given that you have created the scripts (and can presumably show this), it is highly likely to be implied into the contract that you have the right to use the freelancer’s/ contractor’s voice recording. However, the best advice I can offer you is to have a written agreement in place beforehand to avoid all doubt and to minimise the likelihood of a dispute arising.

The written agreement should state that the contractor/freelancer you have engaged agrees to assign the copyright in the recording to you/your company. Under these circumstances, an assignment of copyright would be preferable to a licence of copyright because you would become the copyright owner in respect of his voiceover, instead of simply having permission to use it.

The agreement should also specifically state that the contractor /freelancer agrees to assign moral rights to you/your company. Moral rights are separate from economic rights and a waiver of the contractor’s/freelancer’s moral rights will mean they will not have the right to claim authorship or to object to later modifications to the recording.

Copyright can be difficult to get to grips with for those not in the know, so please get in touch if you’d like us to talk you through any issues you’re still unsure of.

The expert was Aasim Durrani, of the intellectual property team at Lawdit Commercial Solicitors.


18th October 2012

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