As freelancers, it is essential that you understand your rights regarding Intellectual Property. Ailsa Pemberton, provides a useful guide on the points you need to be aware of when commencing new projects.
For the purposes of this blog, I am focussing on the scenario where you are creating works for others. You may be: an artist commissioned to create a bespoke art work; a web designer creating a site for a customer; a photographer taking wedding photos; a journalist writing about an exclusive scoop; a computer programmer creating a new App for a client; and so on. In the majority of the scenarios above, you will be paid for your efforts and, with any luck, the happy client may recommend you, thereby leading to further work for you.
In the majority of the scenarios above, you will be paid for your efforts and, with any luck, the happy client may recommend you, thereby leading to further work for you.
RECOMMENDATIONS CAN LEAD TO MORE WORK.
As a specialist intellectual property (IP) lawyer, I advise clients how to maximise the value from their IP. For many of my clients this may take the form of advising on protecting their IP or drafting commercial agreements to get a return from that IP, e.g. by developing, using, licensing or selling, to name a few methods.
For freelancers, the value considerations need to start before the IP is created. Many freelancers undersell their works. Remember, the customer wants to tap into your expertise and is willing to pay for that expertise.
DON’T UNDERVALUE YOUR WORK, IT IS YOUR INCOME.
One of the most important factors is recognising the type of IP you are creating. Most of the examples above create copyright works, but you may also be creating a patentable invention, a protectable design or a registrable trade mark.
To focus on copyright: copyright arises automatically, without the need for registration in the UK, upon the creation of an original work. As creator, you are the first owner of that copyright work. Ownership of such work can only pass when you give your agreement in writing, even when being paid. So, if you are to transfer ownership as well as the work, make sure the price reflects that.
You might want to think about retaining some elements, licensing or transferring only part of the works, and retaining others. The retained parts can then be used by you in the future. You could grant rights for a limited time, or in a limited territory or for a limited use. Full ownership should always cost more.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. FULL OWNERSHIP SHOULD ALWAYS COST MORE.
Moral rights should always be considered. Unless you are producing white labelled goods for your customer, it is prudent to insist that your details are displayed on the works. This will show others who created the works and hopefully lead to more work for you.
EXERT YOUR MORAL RIGHTS.
Always keep full records, including dates, of the creation of your works. You need to be able to prove you are the owner should the work be stolen, for example if the customer doesn’t pay but uses your work anyway.
EVIDENCE THE CREATION.
Some of the tips above arise from deep seated legal principles which I would be more than happy to explain further. Others are simply common sense. At the end of the day, however, a little knowledge is a good thing and will hopefully make your business more successful.
If you would like any further advice on IP issues please contact Ailsa Pemberton.