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Copyright and freelance work

Written by Owen Ross on 12 June 2012

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Ownership of copyright differs for employees and freelancers. As an employee, copyright in all works created by you in the course of employment will vest in your employer. As a freelancer copyright in all works created by you during the course of your work will vest in you.

Any use of your copyright material by a company who you are dealing with as a freelancer would need to be authorised by you. This authorisation would usually be in the form of a licence (implied or express) or an assignment of rights.

If you grant a licence for the use of your copyright material to a company for an agreed fee, your remedy would usually be determined by the contents of the licence. If the licence to a company you were freelancing for was an expressed licence and was subject to your fee being paid by a certain date you would have (1) a claim of copyright infringement against the company using your copyright material from that date; and (2) a claim for breach of contract prior to that date.

If you have an implied licence (where you simply orally agreed to allow a company you freelanced for) for a company to use your copyright material you can withdraw your consent (licence) in writing from the new company and make a claim against them for (1) breach of contract for the period prior to revoking your consent and (2) copyright infringement for the period after you have withdrawn your consent (if they continue to use you copyright material after consent has been withdrawn).

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