Work For Hire agreements are crap.
The term was never mentioned when it came to signing an artist to create content. It became a thing, when the corporations had to find a legal loophole to use against the creators trying to get their rights back, even though Copyright law states they can get their rights back after a certain period.
A work made for hire, is a piece of copyrightable work created by employees as part of their job or as part of a limited type of commissioned work for a flat fee. In the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is “made for hire,” the employer, not the employee, is considered the legal author. In other words, the creator of the work gives up all ownership and administration rights for a flat fee.
The earliest use of “Work For Hire” was in the arts industry like comic books and artists who designed album covers. Marvel is no stranger to these kind of cases. Stan Lee (creator of most things Marvel), Gary Friedrich (creator of Ghost Rider), Joe Simon (Captain America creator) and Jack Kirby (illustrator/artist on the Stan Lee projects) are a few names that had litigation cases brought against Marvel.
The Superman creators wrote an article hoping that the original Christopher Reeve movies bomb at the box office because they weren’t fairly compensated. The movies did the exact opposite.
Read this Billboard interview with Don Henley, who is very interested in artists rights. While I agree and also disagree with Henley’s views on a wide range of topics, one thing is certain; Henley cares. As a member of The Eagles, and after being a Copyright rookie, he schooled himself on what his entitlements are as a creator. Don Henley owns his post 1978 work as a member of The Eagles and as a solo artist. He knows that his pre-1978 works can be reclaimed from 2028 due to another sneaky Copyright addition for pre-78 works.
If you don’t want to click on the Billboard link, here is the question from Billboard and Henley’s answer.
The first issue you were known for being active on was the effort by the labels to have recordings considered “works for hire” — which I think was the origin of the Recording Artists Coalition. How important was the coalition in stopping that? And you learn anything from it?
In 1999, the lobbying group for the major labels, the RIAA, buried a fundamental change to the Copyright Act in a completely unrelated bill, the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999.
Without input from the artists, they amended the definition of ‘work for hire’ in the Copyright Act to include ‘sound recordings.’
The consequence of this amendment would have been devastating for recording artists. It would have effectively eliminated artists’ ability to regain ownership of their sound recordings in the United States.
The ability of the RIAA to pass a bill which amended the Copyright Act without opposition from the creative community was a direct result of the labels being organized and the artists not having a coalition to represent their voices.
So, a group of artists and artist representatives mobilized and formed the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC). Thanks to the many artists who spoke up, and the support of Congressman Howard Berman, sound recordings were stricken from the definition of ‘work for hire’ in the Work Made for Hire and Copyright Corrections Act of 2000. The only reason that recording artists can now regain control of their copyrights from the labels in the U.S. as Congress intended is because the RAC organized and artists spoke up.
I am all for the creators getting proper compensation for their works. There is no way that a corporation told a creator what to create.
Can you imagine the absurdity of it all?
A Publishing House is going to tell Steven King or George Martin or Paulo Coelho what to write. Yeah, right.
Or a Music company is going to tell an artists what kind of song to create.
Those same music companies including Capital Records, Warner Bros. and Sony Music have been falsely registering songs as “made for hire” in order to send takedown notices to the various ISP’s and YouTube.
I’m sure that’s gonna work out well in the long run especially when the artists don’t know that the label is doing that.
Then again, it doesn’t always work out well. This is just one of many.
The cover to Aqualung from Jethro Tull was created by Burton Silverman. The artwork was commissioned and purchased by Chrysalis Records head Terry Ellis in 1971.
Silverman was paid a flat fee of $1,500 for the painting and there was no written contract.
The artist says the art was only licensed for use as an album cover, and not for merchandising; he approached the band seeking remuneration for the additional uses, such as printing it on T-shirts and coffee mugs.
And he got told to piss off.