A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his employment is owned by the employer (which is known as a “work made for hire”).
However, just because you pay someone to create something for you doesn’t mean it’s a “work made for hire”.
If you hire an independent contractor (such as a freelancer, consultant or third party company) to create something for you (e.g., design a website, create advertising materials, take photographs, etc.), if you want to own the materials created – and not just have limited rights to use the materials –you will need a signed, written agreement transferring the intellectual property rights to you.
Independent Contractors own the copyrights in their creations unless the rights are transferred by a signed, written agreement.
Even if you aren’t going to own the intellectual property rights in the materials created by an independent contractor, an agreement is still a good idea to clarify what rights you have to use (and potentially modify) the materials.
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