Who owns your creative work? | Your Intellectual Property Rights | FROM THE FIELD E02

In this episode, we ask Harper Macleod LLP Associate: Louise Torr the question: Who owns your creative work? Together we explore intellectual property rights such as copyright for freelancers, employees and companies. There are some useful scenarios for freelancers, employees and companies at the end.

Louise specialises in advising start-ups and high growth businesses, with specific experience relating to investment and commercial matters.  She works extensively with earlier stage Scottish companies.  She advises companies from pre-incorporation, through the various investment rounds until exit.  Working with many early stage high growth companies, she is experienced in getting companies ‘investor ready’.

Prior to joining Harper Macleod LLP, Louise worked as a project manager within a large renewable energy consultancy, providing planning and commercial advice to a number of large energy providers.

At the end of the video we run through some scenarios so whether you’re a freelancer, sole trader, an employee, a client or commissioner, those scenarios will ideally help you work out who owns your creative work, or indeed, the creative work that you’ve paid to commission.

Louise Torr is a lawyer at Harper Macleod Solicitors and works in the corporate and commercial team helping businesses with all aspects of their business and from incorporation and growth, through to exit and everything that happens in between. This normally involves quite a lot of intellectual property.

So what exactly is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is something that’s almost inherent in absolutely every business out there. It’s a legal right that arises either by nature of law or by registration and that can include copyright, trademarks, design rights, patents and that can be within the uk, worldwide and protected jurisdictionally.

It’s important for you to understand who owns the copyright, or whether there’s anything in writing to dictate otherwise. 

To strip it back to its most basic terms, if you were recording the interview above right now, you are the one that’s operating the camera, you are the author of the work and therefore you own the copyright in this work. So if it’s a literary, musical, dramatic, written or recorded piece of work then the copyright generally sits with the author, unless there’s anything agreed otherwise. That’s why it’s always important to understand who is actually making the production, who is actually holding the camera and making the recordings, essentially it is them when it comes to production work. 
There can be really complex agreements in place between all the parties so that it’s clear who owns it and whether or not it’s jointly owned. In some productions, you could have the Producer and Director jointly owning some of the production and so it’s about making sure that you’re clear where that intellectual property sits and where it should sit.

How do you protect your creative work and prove you own it?
It’s about making sure you are keeping a record of what it was that you created, adding a digital signature to it if that’s something that you’re able to do; keeping a database of everything that everybody’s done; if you’ve created content that you are putting on your website, for example, you might want to a copyright sign, © 2021. Legally, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything but it’s still making that statement to others that this is copyrighted content that is owned by that person or organisation.

This features Harper Macleod LLP Associate: Louise Torr

Louise specialises in advising start-ups and high growth businesses, with specific experience relating to investment and commercial matters.  She works extensively with earlier stage Scottish companies.  She advises companies from pre-incorporation, through the various investment rounds until exit.  Working with many early stage high growth companies, she is experienced in getting companies ‘investor ready’.

Prior to joining Harper Macleod LLP, Louise worked as a project manager within a large renewable energy consultancy, providing planning and commercial advice to a number of large energy providers.

At the end of the video we run through some scenarios so whether you’re a freelancer, sole trader, an employee, a client or commissioner, those scenarios will ideally help you work out who owns your creative work, or indeed, the creative work that you’ve paid to commission.

Louise Torr is a lawyer at Harper Macleod Solicitors and works in the corporate and commercial team helping businesses with all aspects of their business and from incorporation and growth, through to exit and everything that happens in between. This normally involves quite a lot of intellectual property.

So what exactly is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is something that’s almost inherent in absolutely every business out there. It’s a legal right that arises either by nature of law or by registration and that can include copyright, trademarks, design rights, patents and that can be within the uk, worldwide and protected jurisdictionally.

It’s important for you to understand who owns the copyright, or whether there’s anything in writing to dictate otherwise. 

To strip it back to its most basic terms, if you were recording the interview above right now, you are the one that’s operating the camera, you are the author of the work and therefore you own the copyright in this work. So if it’s a literary, musical, dramatic, written or recorded piece of work then the copyright generally sits with the author, unless there’s anything agreed otherwise. That’s why it’s always important to understand who is actually making the production, who is actually holding the camera and making the recordings, essentially it is them when it comes to production work. 
There can be really complex agreements in place between all the parties so that it’s clear who owns it and whether or not it’s jointly owned. In some productions, you could have the Producer and Director jointly owning some of the production and so it’s about making sure that you’re clear where that intellectual property sits and where it should sit.

How do you protect your creative work and prove you own it?
It’s about making sure you are keeping a record of what it was that you created, adding a digital signature to it if that’s something that you’re able to do; keeping a database of everything that everybody’s done; if you’ve created content that you are putting on your website, for example, you might want to a copyright sign, © 2021. Legally, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything but it’s still making that statement to others that this is copyrighted content that is owned by that person or organisation.

SCENARIO #1: The Self-employed Freelancer

A self-employed freelancer is hired by a limited company client to create a 3-minute video.

The freelancer hires a second camera operator for a day to capture some additional footage and a copy of this footage is provided to be used in the finished video.

There is no contract in place between any of these parties. Simple invoices are used, everyone gets paid and the video is delivered to the client.

Who owns the creative work?

SCENARIO #2: The Employee

A person works full time as a Designer in a creative agency (Ltd.).

They are given a project to design and develop a new logo for one of the agency’s clients.

Who owns the creative work?

SCENARIO #3: The Client

A Music Label (Ltd.) hires ‘Production Company A (Ltd.)’ to produce a music video for a musician who is contracted to the label. 

‘Production company A’ then hires ‘Production Company B (Ltd.)’ to film, edit and deliver the music video.

Production Company B delivers the finished music video. No written contracts were put in place.

Who owns the creative work?

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