The ability to pursue your hobbies and ideas is one of the benefits of freelancing. Particularly as you advance as a freelancer, potential clients will frequently be interested in your point of view.
Knowing this, it is critical to understand how your work’s ownership, or copyrights, is controlled, mainly when working with clients.
Though it might be confusing, understanding and protecting your copyright is critical since it can create chances to support your firm’s survival.
Today, content developed in one medium may be used to fuel a plethora of spinoffs. In the instance of freelance writing and magazine pieces, the films “Hustlers” (2019), “Blue Crush” (2002), and “Fast and Furious” (2001) were all inspired by articles first published in New York Magazine, Outside, and Vibe, respectively.
The copyright governs who has the right to make those articles into profitable films and who is compensated for doing so.
Of course, not everything you write will be movie material. You do not have to retain the rights to everything you produce, but an understanding of copyrights in the rapidly evolving media environment.
The development of best practices can provide you with the business opportunity to revisit the work you create in podcasts, books, or whatever new media format emerges in the next few years.
Anibal A. Luque, a lawyer, helped me comprehend copyrights better. He is the founder and managing attorney of Luque PLLC, which provides creatives and entrepreneurs with strategic business and legal advice.
He has counseled and consulted across the creative industries, including independent record labels, art and fashion companies, stylists, fine artists, DJs, and producers.
What Does the Term “Copyrights” Actually Mean?
According to Luque, “copyright” is a set of rights that protects the creator of an original piece of art. This can include images, visuals, literary works, dance, audiovisual art, or any other form of expression.
However, it should be noted that copyright does not protect ideas in and of themselves but rather how those ideas are expressed.
While anyone can create something based on the concept of “freedom,” the notion is not what is protected by copyright. Instead, the actual text choices, graphic decisions, or movement choices in their ultimate form will be protected by copyright.
To obtain those rights, there is no need to file any form of federal copyright paperwork. Unless otherwise stipulated in a contract with a customer, the creator owns the copyright to work as soon as it is generated.
Copyright covers how the work can be shown, reproduced, and distributed in addition to ownership of the original work.
As well as any derivative of the work (this happens when an article is turned into a screenplay for a movie, podcast, or any other type of product).
As creators produce additional work, they build what is known as an Intellectual Property Portfolio (or IP Portfolio), which is a portfolio of copyrights for all of their work.
Why Are Brands/Magazines/Clients Interested in Your Copyrights?
Because the copyright to any work generated immediately belongs to its creator, brands, periodicals, and clients must obtain permission from the creator before using the work. On the other hand, brands and clients typically have more resources, influence, and leverage than individual artists.
As a result, the primary contract they issue tends to look out for their own best interests, typically cutting out the creator with words like “in perpetuity throughout the universe” and “through any technology known or yet to be created.”
“Standard is not always fair,” argues Luque. So, while work-for-hire contracts for freelancers may be the usual manner of doing business, it does not necessarily imply that they are fair.”
It is in brands’ best interests to increase or add value for themselves, and this is usually accomplished by owning as much intellectual property as possible (see the sale of Quibi to Roku or the debate surrounding Gawker’s archive).
While the copyright part of a contract may go by many titles, the bottom line is that in exchange for whatever they will the work’s copyright is paid you, the work’s copyright. This will immediately shift ownership to the employer.
So, What Should a Creator Do?
Contract negotiations can feel like David versus Goliath, but there are efficient ways to safeguard your copyright.
Luque agrees that some of it will predicate on the leverage the creator brings to a contract negotiation – echoing remarks from others about the significance of developing a personal brand and audience – but a basic understanding of copyright mechanics may also be tremendously beneficial.
He proposes two long-term tactics for protecting your IP portfolio:
– Make your work available for licensing. Rather than signing over the copyright, a creator can license the use of their works for a specified period (2 years, five years, etc.). This lets the client continue to utilize the work while the rights to the work stay with the author, potentially allowing them to continue to commercialize their work after the license expires.
– Keep your work to a minimum. Instead of granting clients complete ownership of any work derivative, a creator can restrict its use to a single media. For example, a contract could provide that an essay can only be published in digital format or that a visual design can only be utilized in the context of a booklet. This helps creators keep control of their work while also ensuring that if opportunities for derivatives of the work arise, they will be involved in the process.
In some cases, keeping the copyright for the work you create may not be as vital. Finally, Luque advises creators to examine “what you are giving up against what you are gaining in return?”
Product descriptions may not provide long-term value to the individual creator. If the tradeoff is consistent work or a solid income, signing over all rights to the customer makes more financial sense.
Clients may also provide access to tools and resources that an individual author would not obtain on their own, in which case it may make more sense to consider sharing copyright.
Copyright is critical to understand and defend when necessary, as it can give creators additional cash sources and the opportunity to pursue other creative ideas.
“You shouldn’t be scared to question your peers about their contract discussions and to talk to them because you’re all in the same boat,” Luque concludes.
Sharing specifics about your will. These discussions may assist another freelancer with theirs, and it may even persuade a client to change their usual contract language.
Source: Freelance Union
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