Date published:

June 28, 2021

What is a Work Made for Hire Agreement in the Film Industry? 

Filmmakers are hired to perform contracted services such as cinematography, screenwriting, or other areas of a production. It’s important to understand the contract agreement that is made between the two parties. Different wording in a contract can lead to incredibly different outcomes. Pertaining to the ownership of rights and final outcomes of a film. Many contracts between a production company and those hired to provide services will include a “work for hire” clause. But what is a work made for hire agreement and how does it work?

handhsaking relationship

What Does Work Made For Hire Mean?

Work for hire means you relinquish ownership rights to the copyright of any work you produce for someone else. Say you sign a work made for hire agreement. One which states that you are providing this work for hire.

In doing so you are giving up your right to take any rights to copyright of the work when it is complete. In exchange for payment or whatever the agreement is, you’re giving up your right to copyright the work.

And allowing the right of copyright to go to the production company or other party who hired you.

What Happens When Hired Under a Work Made for Hire Agreement?

In the film industry, if you’re the employee that is hired under a work made for hire agreement you’re probably wondering exactly what it means for you.

If you’re the hired employee under a work made for hire agreement? Then you’re going to perform a service for the employer that hired you. And you’re going to receive compensation for that service.

In return, the employer will retain the rights to the work that you provide while you work for them and are being compensated. 

Without the Agreement

The difference between work made for hire agreements and contractor agreements or freelancer agreements is that when you provide a work made for hire you give up your right to own the copyright to the work you create.

However, if you were a contracted freelancer that did NOT sign a work made for hire agreement? You could potentially retain the copyright to the work that you create. You wouldn’t necessarily give up your right to the employer.

Why are Work Made for Hire Agreements Typically Entered Into?

You might be wondering, why would you want to give up your right to copyright? Why would you want to give up your work? The reality is, filmmakers perform a lot of their services as work for hire.

Much of the process of filmmaking is done on someone else’s dime. You may not love the idea of giving up your right to copyright.

But the work made for hire agreement provides an opportunity for you to be compensated for your work. While also providing the production company with added value as you provide copyright rights to them in exchange for the compensation they provide for your work.

The Takeaway

Generally, the employer retains the copyright rights under a work made for hire agreement. As well as in any situation in which you’re hired as a freelancer and the work is custom ordered by the production company.

You and the production company agree to them retaining the copyright rights, and the work falls into a specific category. Most importantly, make sure that you know what a work made for hire agreement is.

Know what it stands for, and what rights you’re relinquishing when you enter into this agreement in exchange for your services. 

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