Who Owns Your Website? The Importance of Copyright Transfer Agreements
Copyright is initially owned by the creator of the work, barring several specific exceptions. While the premise seems simple enough, this principle is often overlooked or misunderstood in the context of website development and marketing materials.
It is common for a business owner to hire a web developer to create a website. The business owner assumes that because it paid the web developer, the business owns the copyright in the website. This is incorrect. Unless the business owner and the web developer sign a copyright transfer agreement, the copyright belongs to the web developer. (There is a limited exception to this rule where the website may be regarded as a work made for hire.)
Copyright ownership is important because an owner is entitled to control all use of the copyrighted material. It is disappointing and frustrating for a business when it retains the services of an outside photographer or marketing firm and pays for the work, only to learn that the rights in the resulting materials are owned by the photographer or marketing firm. It is critical that a copyright transfer agreement be completed to ensure that the business is the owner of all rights in its website and marketing materials, including photographs and videos.
Consider including copyright transfer as part of the initial negotiations with web developers and marketing professionals, before any work is completed. This strategy clarifies ownership before the project gets underway and potential problems arise.
At Blumenfield and Shereff, LLP, our attorneys are experienced in drafting and evaluating copyright transfer agreements, ensuring that clients own the intellectual property needed to promote their business. Contact Blumenfield & Shereff, LLP at (262)241-3400 or email [email protected] for further assistance.
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