It is always worth checking that you do own the copyright in works which are of importance to your business.  Whilst software developers would be a prime example of businesses for whom this would be key, the ownership of copyright can be important for many businesses, from planners to PR agencies.

The range of works protected by copyright is vast, including software, brochures, photographs, images and diagrams to name but a few.  The level of originality required to create a new work protected by copyright is relatively low.

However, the key question is “who will own it”?  For copyright works created in the course of an employee’s employment, this is relatively straightforward.  Subject to any direct agreement to the contrary, works created by the employee will belong to the employer (even so, a business may want to reinforce this position by including appropriate wording in its contracts of employment).

The position is potentially more difficult with those who are not employees, such as consultants and contractors.  Copyright in works created by consultants and contractors will belong to them.  In view of this, when appointing consultants and contractors, it is important for businesses to include in their contracts clauses under which the copyright is expressly assigned to the business.  These terms must be being signed by the consultant or contractor, as an assignment has to be in writing and signed by the person transferring the copyright.

Where the consultant or contractor employs its own staff to create copyright works, the business will need to secure the rights from those persons as well – either separate assignments of copyright for a nominal consideration or a clause in the contract with the consultant or contractor requiring them to procure such assignments, so the consultant or contractor can in turn assign the copyright to the business.

If this is not addressed at the beginning of the relationship, it can prove far more difficult (and costly) to obtain an assignment of the copyright later, particularly if the business does not have an on-going relationship with the creator of the work.