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Work for Hire vs. Copyright

Many new writers get confused about who owns the copyright to the documents they create and this can cause hard feelings between the writer and his client.

When a company or an individual hires you to write something for them, whatever that something may be, an article, book, brochure, ad copy, press release, web site content, whatever that something may be, you are contracting to do a work for hire. That means that the company or individual who hired you owns the copyright. You, as the writer, own nothing that you created for them. You only are entitled to payment for the writing services you rendered.

On the other hand, when you write an original book, article, or any of the above-mentioned documents on your own for your own use, you own the copyright. So if you write a book on your own about a topic of your choice or a brochure about your freelance writing services, you own the copyright to the content of that book and that brochure.

The fine distinction between these two very different types of written works has often resulted in contention between the writer and the true owner of the materials the writer created.

I strongly recommend that you always clarify whether the work you are doing is a work for hire or a work to which you own the copyright to avoid confusion and the possible loss of future business. I find it helpful to put this in my contracts, as well.

Dip your pen into the inkwell and tell us about a work for hire project you considered or rejected.

The Writers Inkwell Muse

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