Who owns the copyright to your copywriting?

Interestingly, from what the UK government says, from 1989 any work which someone (in our case as copywriters: the client) ‘ask[s] or commission[s] another person or organisation to create‘ (in our case: the copywriter) remains the copyright of ‘the person or organisation that created the work‘ and not ‘the commissioner, unless you otherwise agree it in writing’. So, unless you sign your work over to the client via a written agreement, you – the copywriter – retain copyright to everything you write. However, the government also says…

…When an agreement isn’t drawn up, there may be an ‘implied licence allowing the commissioner to use the work for the purpose for which it was commissioned’. This, of course, means that your client can reasonably expect to use the copywriting they’ve commissioned for their brochure, website, sales letter or whatever.

But the government states that this ‘does not necessarily result in a transfer of ownership. Instead, the commissioner of the work may only get a limited non-exclusive licence. This situation demonstrates the importance of establishing who owns copyright through a contract.

So if you’re ever in a situation where a naughty client runs off without paying for your work yet publishes your copywriting online or in printed form then they are in infringement of copyright laws.

And the government says that ‘”infringement” is a legal term for an act that means breaking a law’. Also that ‘infringement of trade marks and copyrights can be criminal offences, as well as being actionable in civil law.’

Out of interest, what is the difference between ‘intellectual property’ and ‘copyright’?

According to this website: ‘Intellectual property (or IP) refers to creative work which can be treated as an asset or physical property. Intellectual property rights fall principally into four main areas; copyright, trademarks, design rights and patents.’

So copyright is just one of the areas that comes under the overall umbrella of intellectual property.

(And, for those people who keep emailing me, as a COPYWRITER, to find out more about COPYRIGHT law… COPYWRITING and COPYRIGHTING are NOT the same thing.)


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