Freelancers' Questions: Is my anti-authors' rights contract retrospective?

Freelancer’s Question: I'm a freelance animator with a new contract, the key clauses of which I’ve shared with FreelanceUK for the purpose of this Q&A.

Firstly, I have already completed five jobs for this company without a contract -- does this new agreement apply to those jobs, or only to jobs I complete for them in the future?

Secondly, it says they are under no obligation to credit me with authorship; is that correct? If so, this is a deal-breaker for me as the jobs are very low paid, and the only reason to do them is if I can use them to promote myself. Please help!

Expert’s Answer: As your two queries are in relation to separate matters of law, they will be considered in turn.

Firstly, in relation to your first query, this relates to the commencement of the contract.

Unless the contract states otherwise, the contractual terms will apply to all work completed after the contract has been considered by both parties and signed.

However, it is important to check the contract for a retrospective clause. If the contract contained a clause that states the contract will apply to previous works, then you may be bound by the terms of the contract regarding previous works.

As far as I can see, there does not seem to be a retrospective clause included in the contract terms you have provided with the question. If there are further terms to the contract than what you have provided, it is important you make sure that they do not include a clause which gives the contract retrospective scope.

Now I will move on to your second query.

Under section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, the creative author of a work has the right to be identified as the author. This is also known as the Right of Paternity.

This right among others, is part of your ‘moral rights’ as the creator of your animations. As the contract assigns the copyright protection in your animations to the company, you have to rely on your moral rights, rather than those as the owner of the copyright protection.

You have the ability to waive this right, which is what the term in the contract is referring to.

If you were to agree to this, you could no longer rely on your moral rights and the company are able to release your work without crediting you as the author.

Under section 86 (2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, your Right to Paternity will last for 20 years after your death as author.

If you do not want to waive this right to be identified as the author, it is important that you do not sign this contract or make any action which can be implied as acceptance of the terms.

It is recommended that you approach the company and express that you do not wish to waive your Right of Paternity and would like it made clear in the contract that you will always be credited as the author of such works that you provide under the contract. Good luck!

The expert was Ellis Sweetenham of Lawdit Solicitors, a legal firm specialising in internet law and intellectual property.


3rd September 2017

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