Work-for-Hire Agreement

This is a basic work-for-hire agreement, where the contractor is an artist being hired by a creative firm for a work of design. I based this agreement on template documents provided to students at Fordham Law, and tailored the provisions for an "artist" (could be any type) hired by a "creative firm" to produce a creative work to be incorporated in a final product produced the "creative firm".

This is an Agreement between name of artist, hereinafter Artist, normally doing business at full address andname of creative firm, hereinafter Creative Firm, normally doing business at full address.

This Agreement covers the preparation of project title or description  further described in Addendum and submission of ideas and materials therefor.  Artist will receive a total fee of $fee upon satisfactory completion.  Artist will deliver to Creative Firm on or before agreed date the project title or description in form and content satisfactory to creative firm.

Artist is an independent contractor.  This work is considered work-for-hire under the United States Copyright Act of 1976.  All concepts, ideas, copy, sketches, art- work, electronic files and other materials related to it will become the property of Creative Firm.  Artist acknowledges that project title or description is being created by Artist for use by Creative Firm.

At Creative Firm's sole and absolute discretion, Creative Firm may make any changes in, deletions from, or additions to project title or description.  Creative Firm is not under any obligation to use project title or description or derivative materials.

Artist acknowledges that project title or description is being created by artist for use by Creative Firm and that project title or description is a work made for hire under the United States Copyright Act of 1976.  At all stages of development, the project title or description shall be and remain the sole and exclusive property of Creative Firm.  If for any reason the results and proceeds of Artist's services hereunder are determined at any time not to be a work made for hire, Artist hereby assigns to Creative Firm all right, title and interest therein, including all copyrights as well as renewals and extensions thereto.

Credit for the work shall read: credit to artist, provided that a substantial portion of Artist's work is used in Creative Firm's final product.  No inadvertent failure by Creative Firm to comply with the credit line shall constitute a breach of this Agreement.

Artist represents and warrants to Creative Firm that to the best of his/her knowledge the concepts, ideas, copy sketches, artwork, electronic files and other materials produced do not infringe on any copyright or personal or proprietorial rights of others, and that he/she has the unencumbered right to enter into this Agreement.    

Artist will indemnify Creative Firm from any damage or loss, including attorney's fees, rising out of any breach of this warranty.

Artist grants Creative Firm the right to issue and authorize publicity concerning Artist and to use Artist's name and approved biographical data in connection with the distribution and advertising of the project.

Any proprietary information, trade secrets and working relationships between Artist and Creative Firm and its clients must be considered strictly confidential, and may not be disclosed to any third party, either directly or indirectly.

With reasonable cause, either party reserves the right to cancel this Agreement without obligation by giving 30 days written notice to the other party of the intent to terminate.  In the event that either party shall be in default of its material obligations under this Ageement and shall fail to remedy such default within 60 days after receipt of written notice thereof, this Agreement shall terminate upon expiration of the 60 day period.  Should Artist's commission be cancelled or postponed for any reason before the final stage, Creative Firm agrees to pay a cancellation fee based on work completed.

Please indicate acceptance of the terms set forth above by signing this Agreement.


Document Discussion

Should a subcontractor that has agreed to "work for hire" be responsible to carry and show that they have a Commercial General Liability insurance policy for the project?

Anybody who has enough money to pay a freelance artist probably got it by cheating people in the first place. I am not an artist but I know some. The ones I know are too smart to get sucked into the totally unfair exploitation game called "work for hire." That's nothing but slavery. I majored in feeling with a minor in fairness and I can tell you for sure that the best artists are the ones who don't let their work be exploited by the one-percenters who are only trying to buy their work for their own purposes!

Hi, I fully recognise the value of a work for hire agreement for both the creating artist and the commissioning company. My question is the protection for the creating artist should the commissioning company decide not to accept the work created. The above agreement states 'Artist will deliver to Creative Firm on or before agreed date the project title or description in form and content satisfactory to creative firm.' This would allow a commissioning company to commission a number of artists to spend an enormous amount of time creating material, only then to be told it was not satisfactory. They would then be left unpaid for hours of work and obviously this would not be able to survive as artists. How would these artists be protected in law?

Hi, thanks for this great template. I have some questions: - Would it be still valid, if I simply replace 'creative firm' with a real person name, who is an individual client that is not incorporated in any form? - And shouldn't there be an 'applicable law' statement regarding to disputes? Thanks in advance for your help.

Hi, my name is George and I am a comic book writer that will be seeking an artist to illustrate. I have spoke to creators at comic cons, and the consensus is that I should insist on the signing of a work-for-hire contract. Based on many of the comments it seems that presenting a work-for-hire contract is a non starter that would send an artist running for the hills. Are there any suggestions you all have in order to have a contract signed but also be reasonable?

Work-for-hire contracts are standard and if it sends an artist running for the hills, you really don't want to work with them. Trust's a standard business practice and the good artists know that.

Try to hire internationally through There are fewer prima-donas on the international stage. Good luck. Guy.

Ok after reading everyone's comments I just wanted to state as a owner of 4 companies I would not sign this letter. however I have been apart of a company who promised me pay based on my work and after my work was done they wanted everything, my samples and all graphics to create the work. By the way they gave me nothing to work with not one idea. I walked away with all of my work and I am about to send them a letter to remove all my work and anything they registered to return for none payment. I have all the originals as well as they are all time stamped. Funny when your work is good most people want to steal it. Be safe never give up the rights unless you are happy with the offer and they stand by the offer given...

Work-for-hire is a standard in the industry. It functions similarly to having an employee working for you and trying to claim copyright or rights to work they create for you while in your employ. They can't. Under work-made-for-hire laws, if someone hires you to create something for them and pays you to do that, the copyright laws of the United States state that the copyrights and rights to use the work are given to the purchaser of the work, not the artist. It's industry standard and I would avoid an artist who refused to sign a work-for-hire contract, as well as a company who refused to make a down payment to retain the services of said artist.

This is fine for most logo/identity projects. The only thing it appears to be missing is a clause giving the Artist the right to display the work in their portfolio.

I just want to point out that the graphic artist who created the Nike swoosh symbol received $35 for his design. That's all he has ever received for it & It became the sole property of Nike to be used by the company and altered (color, size etc) in any way they seem fit. They commissioned it & they own it. That is pretty standard and spelled out that way legally under the copyright acts. It does not strip the artist from being recognized as the creator/designer etc. All recognition goes to them for that, but they are not able to make any profit on it because it belongs to those who commissioned the work.

I'm not sure what your point is with your comment. But if you're going to assert statements as facts, you should get the facts right. Nike's "swoosh" logo was designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a Portland State University student. She knowingly agreed to the terms of a startup company, then called Blue Ribbon Sports, selling shoes out of the back of a car. BRS was not the multi-billion dollar global conglomerate now known as Nike. In addition to the $35 fee, Davidson received a significant bonus payment (I believe $30,000) and a diamond swoosh ring after the company went public in 1983. So if your point was something to the effect that she was ripped off, I don't believe she thinks so. In fact, she has publicly stated that she was surprised to receive the extra compensation, accepting that the fee she received originally was what she agreed to and had no expectation of anything more.

What stoned artist's world are you living in that you don't sign Work for Hire agreements? That's the whole point, a company has an idea they don't have the craftsmanship to bring into reality, that's why they pay you. But it's still their idea, it's not like you would have thought of the same idea without them coming along and hiring you to create it.

Look in the mirror, Jones. I have been a design professional for 15 years and have only ever been asked to sign one - which I did not sign because I'm a knowledgeable, self-respecting professional. You need to educate yourself on the law regarding work for hire which, in simple terms, is basically someone who is an employee or acting as an employee of the client - usually working on site, under direct supervision, with little or no creative input. As an example, a contract designer working for an ad agency as a production artist would sign a work for hire agreement. Original design work, as in creating original intellectual property for a client is not work for hire and is highly protected by copyright laws. So, Tony Apt is completely right about a professional artist leaving the table. Sounds like you're the stoned artist, Leachman, and a troll. Hard as it may be, try to be more respectful.

Actually, Hardtman, you need to do a little more research on work-for-hire contracts before you start namecalling. An employee working on site for a company automatically does NOT have the copyrights for any work created while under that company's employ. They are compensated in the form of wages and benefits and the company owns all rights to the works created by that employee while they are there. The exception to this would be any work they created at home, provided it did not use any proprietary information from said company. A work-for-hire contract is specifically designed for non-employees being contracted to create specific works for a company (or individual). The copyright laws of the United States of America deem that the creator of a piece of work retains all copyrights unless a work-made-for-hire agreement is signed, whereupon the purchaser of the work has all rights and copyrights to the work and can use, alter or edit it however they see fit. Most companies don't want have something created for their company that they don't own the rights to. Too often an artist will get greedy when they see a company using the thing they created and demand more money. The work-made-for-hire laws were designed to protect the companies being held over the barrel by people who had been hired and paid to create something specific for a company and then continue to demand more and more from them. You also fail to acknowledge that it is a good thing for artists as well. They're promised an agreed upon amount when they complete a specific task. They're getting money to do a job, and the contract guarantees they'll get paid if they do that job. I'm sorry, Mr. Hardtman, that you feel like you are unprofessional when you sign an agreement that really does protect both parties, I'm sorry that you think that signing an industry-standard contract means you have no self-respect, but mostly I'm sorry that you think you're knowledgeable about something about which you know very little.

Most professional artists will leave the table if you try to spring a "work for hire" contract on them. The only place it belongs is with a project modifying properties owned by the corporation (say the characters from Star Wars). Otherwise this will be a deal breaker with almost anyone capable of doing quality work who has been in the business for long.

Most "professional artists" are broke, desperate, and have no financial security what so ever.

You imply that it has been directly stated that they haven't. Look, if you are *commissioned* to create something specific, you sign a work for hire contract. You are being hired because the company knows what it wants and is unable to create it. If you have to actually create the idea itself, then visualize it, you don't. Simple.

If they are so professional and creative, then why aren't they coming up with their own ideas, creating them and making a sustainable income on their own accord? Unless an artist is making enough to sustain life and work through the artist's own creatively instigated works, meaning they come up with the idea and move it into reality in a way they can sustain themselves, then their dependent on a cue from a company, and I'm sorry but that's a creative weakness and you're working in a creative field, so you play by their rules. Or you can just go work in fast-food, they won't make you sign a work-for-hire there. It's not the universe's job to make the artist's lifestyle convenient.

You have no idea what you are talking about. It's all coming out of your backside.

Actually, Mr. Clowes, he's dead on. I represent over 120 artists and the ones who are struggling the most are the ones who refuse to 'play by the rules'. They think they're being taken advantage of by companies that want them to sign away their rights and they walk away from deal after deal while their colleagues who understand the game sign the contracts, get paid real money, and let their artistic talent earns a living rather than creating masterpieces that sit in stacks on their living room floor. Whether you like it or not, (with a few exceptions) the difference between art as a career and art as a hobby is learning how to play the game.

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