Commissioning works: what are the copyright consequences?

A common misconception is that the person who has the ideas and commissions someone to create something for them is the owner of any copyright protection in the work. This is incorrect.

As we have discussed previously on the Reading Room, copyright protection protects the expression on an idea, not the idea itself. Therefore, the person who has been asked to create a work is the true owner of the copyright protection.

This is a very important point to note as in most circumstances, the person who is commissioning the work wants to own it, so steps need to be taken to ensure this.

In order to transfer the ownership of the copyright from the commissioned party to the commissioner, both parties must sign an assignment document. This is a transfer of ownership from one party to the other. It is effectively a sale and details on what terms the work has been transferred.

Without this, the commissioned party can do whatever they want with the work they have created for you, and that is something most would like to avoid.

Without such an agreement, a license is normally implied otherwise the party who commissioned the work wouldn’t be able to use it. However, you need to be sure that the commissioned party can only use the work in the way you want them to.

It is best to ensure all of this is in place beforehand, and not hope that a relationship will remain civil without it.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Lawdit team who can assist you in preparing an agreement and providing you with peace of mind.

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