Who Owns the Copy If I Hire a Copywriter?

by RRG
11 replies
If I hire and pay someone to write some copy, say for a direct mail piece, who owns the rights to the copy?

Do I own the rights, or does the writer?
#copy #copywriter #hire #owns
  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    In order for the client to own the copy, there needs to be a written contract transferring ownership to the client.

    Otherwise the client does not own the copy, regardless of any money exchanged or any verbal understanding.

    There was a Supreme Court decision to this effect in the 1980s, involving a sculptor. You can look it up if you like.

    Marcia Yudkin
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

      In order for the client to own the copy, there needs to be a written contract transferring ownership to the client.

      Otherwise the client does not own the copy, regardless of any money exchanged or any verbal understanding.

      There was a Supreme Court decision to this effect in the 1980s, involving a sculptor. You can look it up if you like.

      Marcia Yudkin
      Interesting! Didn't know this one.

      I can imagine some interesting situations when clients then go and make alternations to the copy,..and then leave responsibility of results on the writer's shoulders. And responsibility for any claims made in the copy, even at the pressure of the client.

      Makes sense to get a transfer agreement in place to send ownership of that copy along to the client ASAP.
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      • Profile picture of the author Freedom4rmUrJob
        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        Interesting! Didn't know this one.

        I can imagine some interesting situations when clients then go and make alternations to the copy,..and then leave responsibility of results on the writer's shoulders. And responsibility for any claims made in the copy, even at the pressure of the client.

        Makes sense to get a transfer agreement in place to send ownership of that copy along to the client ASAP.
        This is news to me as well! I do such things on fiverr and I assumed that exchanging a good for money automatically makes the product, the buyer's property.

        Thanks for the important information. I will be sure to double check and reserach this out! If it is true, a lllloooottttttt of people don't own any of their content!
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        • Profile picture of the author nmwf
          Originally Posted by Freedom4rmUrJob View Post

          This is news to me as well! I do such things on fiverr and I assumed that exchanging a good for money automatically makes the product, the buyer's property.

          Thanks for the important information. I will be sure to double check and reserach this out! If it is true, a lllloooottttttt of people don't own any of their content!
          Fiverr's terms and conditions transfer all rights to the buyers, so you have nothing to worry about at that site. The legal references above don't apply to online services like Fiverr, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, etc.
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          • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
            From Fiverr:

            This means that if you purchase the Gig for personal use, you will own all rights you require for such use, and will not need the Commercial Use License. If you intend to use it for any charge or other consideration, or for any purpose that is directly or indirectly in connection with any business, or other undertaking intended for profit, you will need to buy the Commercial Use License through a Gig Extra and will have broader rights that cover your business use.


            I wouldn't sweat it, but, it doesn't hurt to have the Commercial Use License...
            in fact, most of the time it can be a "handshake" deal. However, in bigger companies, some contracts have the work for hire clause, and some have reversion of rights clauses too. A publisher may ask for exclusive rights for distribution, with the writer keeping the copyright or if the publisher has the copyright, it reverts back.

            There are standard boilerplate agreements that suffice, but, if you do get an ongoing contract, you want to have all the i's dotted and t's crossed. Lots of good Intellectual Property contracts to look at online.

            gjabiz

            PS. There are those, Bob Serling serves as an example, who "lease" their promotions or "license" them out. If you have a good promotion for a specific industry, like dentists, you may want to hold the rights. No one size to fit all, but a new person should become familiar with the legalities of what they do.


            Originally Posted by nmwf View Post

            Fiverr's terms and conditions transfer all rights to the buyers, so you have nothing to worry about at that site. The legal references above don't apply to online services like Fiverr, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, etc.
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            • Profile picture of the author nmwf
              https://www.fiverr.com/terms_of_service

              "Buyers are granted all rights for the delivered work, unless otherwise specified by the seller on their Gig page. Note: some Gigs charge additional payments (through Gig Extras) for Commercial Use License. See our "Ownership" and "Commercial Use License" sections below for more information."


              Originally Posted by gjabiz View Post

              From Fiverr:

              This means that if you purchase the Gig for personal use, you will own all rights you require for such use, and will not need the Commercial Use License. If you intend to use it for any charge or other consideration, or for any purpose that is directly or indirectly in connection with any business, or other undertaking intended for profit, you will need to buy the Commercial Use License through a Gig Extra and will have broader rights that cover your business use.
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Originally Posted by RRG View Post

    If I hire and pay someone to write some copy, say for a direct mail piece, who owns the rights to the copy?

    Do I own the rights, or does the writer?
    Once seldom used, but, with all the new copywriters, I advise you to not only have a transfer agreement, but to have an indemnification clause against plagiarism, insuring it is their original work.

    Modern times.

    gjabiz
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  • Profile picture of the author Jame taric
    Is Hiring a Copywriter Your Entire Marketing Strategy?
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  • Profile picture of the author obaynes
    Any rights to the work that aren't specifically enumerated in a contract basically default back to the writer. This also applies to the specifics of use if the full rights to the work haven't been sold to the buyer -- the writer is perfectly within their rights to post the piece elsewhere or sell it to someone else unless you've got a signed agreement in place for them to not do that.

    As people have been mentioning the sites like Fiverr usually have their own contracts in place that cover these specifics for both buyers and sellers.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    You've got bigger problems If buying copy from fiverr.

    Odds are it's already stolen & being resold to you for $5.
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    • Profile picture of the author escribe
      Yup, agree with everyone. Get it in writing in a contract and ensure it says you own full rights to the completed work.
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