Guide

Protecting intellectual property

Intellectual property and freelance contractors

You should take steps to ensure your business owns any intellectual property (IP) rights in work created for you by freelance contractors.

Freelancing and ownership of IP

You have an implied legal right to use IP rights in work you have commissioned from freelance contractors for the purpose it was originally intended for.

However, unless you take steps to assign the IP rights to your business you will neither own them nor be able to make additional use of them.

For example, unless you take adequate precautions, you could find your business would be unable to use a successful advertising slogan across all its promotional material if the phrase in question was coined by an agency that agreed to produce the slogan for a one-off newspaper campaign only.

Work-for-hire agreements

You should set out in a written agreement who will own, control and use the IP rights of all work created before a contractor produces anything for your business.

A clause assigning moral rights to your business could also be beneficial. Unless you do this, your contractors will retain the right to object to distortions of their work as well as to be identified as the author.

Remember that IP rights may reside in promotional material, bespoke software - such as databases and website content management systems - and other creative work which may be undertaken by freelance contractors.

You may want to seek legal advice when drawing up agreements with contractors. To find a solicitor, search the solicitor directory of the Law Society of Northern Ireland.