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What a Work for Hire Agreement Includes

Before starting a project with an independent contractor, a Work for Hire Agreement should be written and signed to protect both parties and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A Work for Hire Agreement may include the following:

  • A timeline for the project
  • A detailed work schedule
  • Project milestones
  • Terms of payment

A Work for Hire Agreement may also be used to ensure that the contractor doesn’t retain any rights over the product or the work created. Without a formal agreement in place, rights may not be transferred to the client who purchased the work. For this reason, these agreements are often used when hiring writers and artists for projects.

The Work for Hire Doctrine

If you are hiring a temporary contractor, you may have concerns over who owns the work you commission. The work for hire doctrine helps to clarify this issue.

Generally speaking, unless there is a special written agreement in place before any of the work begins, any person who contributes to the project can, theoretically, sell that exact same material to someone else without your permission. This becomes particularly problematic with writing projects. Under copyright law, authors presumably own the copyright to any works they create.

Under the work for hire doctrine, work for hire can only exist under two circumstances:

  • Work created by independent contractors. In this case, the work must be specially ordered, meaning that the contractor must be paid to create something new. Prior to creating the work, each party must enter into a signed and written agreement that the work will be considered a work for hire. The work must also fall under one of the nine statutory categories of commissioned works under the Copyright Act.
  • Work prepared by an employee that is within their scope of employment. Any work created by an employee that is within their scope of employment is considered work for hire.

The Advantages of a Work for Hire Arrangement

Most people are under the assumption that they own the rights to any work they have paid for. Without a written Work for Hire Agreement in place, you may not necessarily own the rights to the work. Having an independent contractor enter into an agreement will ensure that you obtain the rights to the work.

For independent contractors, signing a Work for Hire Agreement will put your client’s mind at ease and assure them that they own the work they have paid for.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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