Top Concerns that Should be Addressed in a Written Agreement Signed by All Collaborators. (Part 1)

Do all collaborators own the copyright? Whose name is first? Can all collaborators license the copyright? Is the Collaboration a Work For Hire? Who Makes Final Decisions?

Regardless of what expectations collaborators have, issues can, and often do arise. By planning ahead, many issues can be avoided entirely or handled swiftly.

Consider the following prior to exchanging ideas or beginning to collaborate on any project.

The goal for any agreement should be to account for what you expect to happen among all parties, and even more importantly the things you don't expect to happen.

1.  Whose name goes first?

First, last, or et. al. (and others), the listing and order of names is often not discussed until the project is complete.

  • This should be agreed upon at the outset.
  • To some, this may be a minor issue, yet to others, it could mean not participating in the project at all.

    2.  Who Owns the Copyrights and trademarks?

    Copyrights and trademarks are assets that can be licensed and exploited. Failure to put your ownership intentions in writing can have detrimental consequences.

    • What about future editions, spin off materials, translations and adaptations?
    • Do all collaborators have the same right to utilize portions of the content or brand on their own?

    3.  INTELLECTUAL property Ownership Interests are not all Created Equal

    If you don't want ownership determinations to be decided by a court, make crystal clear who owns what. 

    • Without a signed agreement stating otherwise, the owner of a copyright or trademark may have certain non exclusive rights.
    • What interest or rights do heirs, successors, or assigns, have?

    4.  Copyright Owner vs. Co-Collaborator

    Just because you are a co-collaborator does not mean that you are a copyright owner.

    • Some collaborations are done on a work for hire basis.
    • A work for hire creator may no longer hold any rights or ownership interest in the copyright.

    5.  Work For Hire Considerations

    The determination of whether content was created as a work for hire is not always clear.

    • Parties should detail their intentions when it comes to rights and ownership.
    • It should be clear whether the purchaser of content, or the creator, owns all rights, title, and interest in the work.

    6. What Happens If There is a Dispute among collaborators?

    It is important to provide for resolutions and remedies before issues arise.

    • Plan for unexpected scenarios and state guidelines for handling various kinds of disputes. 
    • Who makes final decisions? Are all collaborators to be consulted before certain determinations?

    Valuable advice - Frustration over the issue often turns out to be bigger than the issue itself.

    what are you waiting for?

    While the above issues are best addressed before work has begun, it is never too late, or too soon, to address prior, current, or future concerns.

    For additional considerations, see Top Concerns that Should be Addressed in a Written Agreement Signed by All Collaborators. (Part 2)