Andy McNish – partner in our Corporate/Commercial team – discusses Copyright Ownership

Remember that you do not automatically own copyright in material that is created for your business unless the creator is your employee doing so as part of their employment. This means that the right to reproduce and freely make use of material created for your business by self-employed contractors and consultants, for example, is not as automatic as you may think.

Copyright material includes any written content (including translations), graphic designs and photographs – whether it’s for manuals, newsletters, brochures, websites, or anything else used in your business. It would also include any software code written for you.

Even when you have paid the creator in full the copyright stays with them unless you have a written assignment from them to your business.

If you do not arrange such an assignment you may only be able to make limited use of the copyright material. Also, the creator may be able to make further use of the works without your consent.

Such assignment may be written into the initial contract with the creator (although they are likely to try to make it conditional upon them first being paid in full for their work) or be dealt with as a standalone matter.

Also it is worth bearing in mind that if the material is important to your continued success – such as being part of your products, branding or software platform – then any potential buyer of or investor into your business may think that your business is worth less because you can’t demonstrate your ownership of such key material.

If you have any queries on copyright ownership, please contact Andy.

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