Just because you write a piece of software, design a website, or develop a graphic doesn’t mean that you own it. Sure, your name might be on it as the author, creator, artist, etc. but if a company hired you to do that work, it belongs to them and not to you. According to U.S. copyright law, if you’re hired by someone to create a piece of software, the person or business that hired you is the legal author of that software – not you. Whether or not your name is on the product, the copyright belongs to the company you wrote the software for.

Intellectual property rights are a two way street. As the contractor, you need to be clear on ownership so you aren’t sued for redistributing something you don’t own. As the company hiring the contractor, you want to make sure you obtain ownership of the work you paid for. In order to clear things up, you had better have an intellectual property contract ready that spells out who gets to take home what, once the project is completed.

It is fairly easy for either party to get confused when it comes to intellectual property rights, mainly because work for hire property rights are the exact opposite of normal copyright law. Regardless of whether you and the contractor you are working with know these differences, it is imperative that you get this agreement down in writing. If it is not clear that you, in fact, paid for the software to be written, the website to be designed, etc. intellectual property rights could return ownership back to the contractor. Take ownership of the intellectual property you paid for by drafting a clearly defined contract.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Cochran is the Owner of ContractEdge, a legal contract template software company. Jim’s contracts can help business owners retain intellectual property rights on software they paid for.