Jennifer Lopez posts a reminder on copyright ownership
The intricacies of copyright law were clearly demonstrated when Jennifer Lopez was recently sued for copyright infringement after she posted a photograph of herself on her Instagram account.
The copyright in the photograph is apparently owned by a photo agency; one of its paparazzi captured the image in New York City. The star is alleged to have copied the photograph and posted it on her Instagram account without obtaining permission to do so from the copyright owner.
Copyright is the intellectual property right that provides protection for artistic works. It is also the most likely protection for software and the various types of content that businesses use for their promotion, for example on their websites.
The general rule is that copyright belongs to the author – the photographer in the J.Lo case and the creator in the case of software and content. Most employment contracts contain or have implied into them by statute an automatic assignment of the rights in favour of the employer, so ownership will vest in your business. The position is different though when an external consultancy is engaged to develop the software or content for you.
In that case, the external consultancy will be the author and owner of the copyright. Even though you have commissioned them to do the work and have paid them for doing it, the copyright will still be theirs. You need to ensure that they assign all of the rights to you. This should be done no later than when you pay them; otherwise, you might be held to ransom. The best way of doing that is to have a properly drawn up contract that addresses all appropriate terms – including a full assignment of all rights.
Not sure about whether your contracts include a full assignment of all rights? Get in touch with our team for help. Call David Woods on +44 (0)1733 887793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Intellectual Property Rights can be one of your business’ most valuable assets. We can help you exploit and protect them. You can read more about our intellectual property expertise here.Back to Our Thinking →