Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Need Rights to Music for Video

Dear Rich: I am in need of a document but dont know exactly which agreement/form will serve my need. I have a video that needs music put to it and I have found a freelancer to do it. So I need a transfer of rights doc to get him to sign before he works on it so that we can copyright it under our name without ever running into a legal issue. Does a patent, copyright, trademark need to be registered by the original artist before an assignment can be signed? Sorry, we can't answer your question until we finish downloading this album. Amazon is/was offering it for $5.99!!! No video needed for this masterpiece.
Your Question. Right. If someone is commissioned to create a contribution for an audiovisual work (a movie, video, etc.) then that would qualify as a work made for hire under copyright law. And if you want to list your company as the "author," you'll have that option under the work made for hire arrangement. Our employer (insert FTC disclaimer here) sells books that include work made for hire agreements. You can probably fashion one yourself as long as you include the following provision:
Contractor agrees that, for consideration that is acknowledged, any works of authorship commissioned pursuant to this Agreement (the "Works") shall be considered works made for hire as that term is defined under U.S. copyright law. To the extent that any such Work created for Company by Contractor is not a work made for hire belonging to Company, Contractor hereby assigns and transfers to Company all rights Contractor has or may acquire to all such Works. Contractor agrees to sign and deliver to Company, either during or subsequent to the term of this Agreement, such other documents as Company considers desirable to evidence the assignment of copyright.
You'll also need to add some other stuff like an assurance that the material isn't taken from somewhere else, information about payment and other typical contract stuff. The agreement should be signed before the work is completed.
Do you need to register a patent, copyright or trademark before assigning it? Just to be clear, we're only talking about copyrights. No registration is required for the work made for hire agreement or for an assignment of copyright. A registration isn't necessary for assigning a trademark, either. You would need to have acquired a patent before assigning it since patents (unlike copyrights and trademarks) don't exist until the government says, 'Okay!' You can, however, assign a patent application or the underlying technology rights. That's enough blah blah blah for today, the Dear Rich Staff has got to go get melancholy with Frank.